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Stockton residents urged to pull the plug on cable thieves

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thousands of Stockton residents, as well one of the Borough's largest employers, are being affected by criminals stealing high voltage electricity cable.

Now the Safer Stockton Partnership, Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for running the region's electricity network, and Crimestoppers have joined forces to help track down the thieves who are inconveniencing local people, disrupting business and costing Teesside's economy thousands of pounds.

The overhead power line cables targeted supply electricity to local homes as well as Nifco, one of the Borough's biggest employers.

In the last seven months, thieves have attacked Northern Powergrid's network 20 times causing power cuts for some 5,000 Stockton Borough residents. Around 5,000 metres of live high voltage copper cabling has been recklessly taken from the local power network costing Northern Powergrid some £600,000 to replace and repair.

On seven occasions the damage has also plunged Nifco into darkness and now the car parts manufacturer and Northern Powergrid are urging residents to take a stand against the thieves and pass on any information they may have.

In a bid to catch the culprits, Northern Powergrid and crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers are offering up to £1,000 cash reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and charging of those responsible.

Nigel Walker, Northern Powergrid's Vulnerable Assets Manager, said: "These attacks on our network are totally unacceptable and we want to reassure local people that we are doing everything we can to pull the plug on the thieves.

"We are replacing the damaged and stolen sections of copper cables with aluminium, which has little value to thieves, and will continue our work with the police, local partners and the community.

"Through partnership we have a much greater chance of identifying those responsible; stopping criminal damage to the local power network and preventing further disruption for our residential and business customers."

Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton Council's Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, said: "These selfish criminal acts are severely disrupting business at Nifco as well as the homes of local residents.

"The productivity of Nifco is dependent on a reliable electricity supply so the impact that the theft of these cables cannot be underestimated.

"This reckless crime leads to significant cost implications for Nifco, one of our largest employers, and Northern Powergrid so we want to do all we can to find out who is responsible and ensure this disruption does not continue."

Geoff Lee, Chair of the Safer Stockton Partnership, added: "Enough is enough - we'd like to urge the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. These reckless thieves are showing complete disregard for our businesses and communities and their actions are totally unacceptable.

"They are costing law abiding citizens and businesses thousands of pounds as well as exposing themselves and others to serious injury or worse."

Mike Matthews MBE, managing director of Nifco UK and European operations officer, said: "Every time metal thieves strike and cause a power cut it costs us around £10,000 an hour in lost productivity which potentially jeopardises plans for further investment in our Eaglescliffe facility.

"Our plant machines produce thousands of plastic parts every day, so when the power goes off, our business is effectively shut down and our people, from the shop floor to office staff, are unable to do their job.

"It is paramount that we quickly deal with the mindless criminals who are not only putting their own lives in danger, but are putting the public at risk and impacting on local businesses. They may think they are just stealing parts of cables, but the reality is that they are taking away the prospect of major investment in the area - that means future jobs on Teesside. It's a huge concern and, by working in partnership with Northern Powergrid and member organisations of the Safer Stockton Partnership, including the police and Stockton Borough Council, as well as Crimestoppers, we hope we can bring this to a close."

The thieves have targeted Northern Powergrid's 11,000 and 33,000 volt cables suspended between poles cutting them whilst live and stealing the cables once they fall to the floor. On several occasions the thieves have left live power cables hanging risking electrocution for any passers-by. Fortunately no-one has been injured as a result of the thefts.

Anyone with information can call Northern Powergrid's emergency 24-hour number 0800 66 88 77 or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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