Leeds and Wakefield: Pylon peril of thieves

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Thieves are risking their lives to climb electricity pylons and steal live overhead copper cable - causing power cut misery for residents in Leeds and Wakefield.

Homes in Sharlston near Wakefield and Methley, Leeds, were plunged into darkness when thieves struck three times in the early hours on the same day this month.

Power company chiefs are urging people to be vigilant as thieves are increasingly prepared to risk life and limb to steal the cable - worth more than 5,000 a ton on the scrap metal market as prices spiral.

CE Electric UK - the company responsible for the electricity distribution network in Yorkshire - said thieves stole overhead copper cable from lines at Sharlston Common near Wakefield in the early hours on December 17, leaving a number of homes without power for eight hours. Cable thieves struck twice in Methley on the same morning, causing nine-hour power cuts.

Around 450 metres of copper cable worth thousands of pounds was stolen in the three incidents.

He said they had seen a threefold increase in cable theft this year. In January alone there were 27 examples of people stealing from the network. This had risen to 83 by last month.

CE Electric UK is urging residents to report any suspicious activity around pylons, electricity poles or substations to the police and ensure that children, pets and livestock are kept away from any damaged or exposed equipment.

Paul Norton, head of safety at CE Electric UK said: "These thieves are risking their lives for just a few pounds.

"We want local residents to be vigilant and to contact the police

immediately or to contact our emergency number on 0800 375 675."

British Transport Police are offering a 1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of cable thieves after a spate of cable thefts from rail lines in West Yorkshire in recent months.

Chris Earl, of South Yorkshire based Universal Recycling, told the YEP scrap copper cable prices were around 3,000 six months ago but have rocketed to around 5,200 ton at today's prices and are expected to reach 6,000 a ton next year.

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