An organised gang of thieves has caused black-outs at hundreds of homes in Leeds by systematically targeting overhead power lines.
Electrical distribution company Northern Powergrid said it was “chasing” the gang all over West Yorkshire after a succession of incidents in recent weeks.
In the latest cases, on Thursday and Friday, nearly 1,300 people in Garforth, Micklefield and Kippax were left without power after more than 600m of cables were stolen.
Mick Hickling, head of Northern Powergrid for West Yorkshire, said: “We have got an organised gang that’s operating around West Yorkshire and it’s such a wide area that it’s difficult to get a grip on. At the moment we’re just chasing them around.”
“They’re stealing 11,000-volt overhead conductors. It’s extremely dangerous to them but the more worrying thing is that it’s a major risk to the public. If anyone was to touch one of them the consequences could be fatal.”
There have been dozens of incidents in the last month, averaging two a day over the last week.
Properties on the edge of east Leeds were left without power in a series of incidents on Thursday and Friday.
At about 4.30am on Thursday 350m of cable was stolen from Green Lane in Garforth, causing a power cut affecting 214 customers.
About 45 minutes later, 210m of cable was stolen from Burton Salmon, leaving 1,082 without a supply.
In the third incident, in the early hours of yesterday, about 80m of cable was stolen at Lumby, near South Milford, causing a black-out for nearly 100 people.
In most cases the thieves are using vans or cherry pickers to get onto fields in semi-rural locations.
Investigators have found makeshift platforms made out of wooden pallets at the scene of some incidents.
The thieves are known to use cutting tools covered in cling film to protect themselves from electrocution.
But Mr Hickling said: “It beggars belief that there hasn’t been a fatality. It’s only a matter of time.”
Sgt Dan Jones, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Criminals are targeting power cables with no regard for their personal safety, the safety of members of the public or the inconvenience that they cause.
“The number of people who are left without power is a cause for concern, particularly as the weather gets colder, many vulnerable people may be left without power.”
To report cable theft call police on 101.