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Copper Thieves Impacting Telephone Customers

Copper thieves strike again. Since the price of copper has jumped, thieves have taken just about everything made out of copper they can get their hands on. Air conditioners, wiring in light poles, gutters and downspouts, and on Tuesday thieves took a copper sculpture from an art museum in Indiana. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports, thieves are hitting utilities hard with regular folks feeling the frustration.

Owen and Shirlene Roberson say they haven't had good phone service in months. They say often the quality is poor, and sometimes they lose service altogether.

"It's just been going on and on and on for months," Sperry resident Owen Roberson said.

The Roberson's phone provider, AT&T, says part of the problem is caused by thieves. AT&T says six times since last September thieves have stolen copper phone lines leading to that rural part of Tulsa County near Sperry.

"I just don't think they have any regard for other people. They don't think about how it affects others," said Shirlene Roberson, Sperry resident.

"They're just in it for the money,” Owen Roberson said. “I wish they knew the trouble they were causing people."

Not only did those thieves steal the copper phone lines, they also took away Owen Roberson's ability to use a special system designed to help him with his severe hearing loss. The system translates spoken words over the phone into written text, kind of like closed captioning. But it won't work without the phone lines.

"It just cuts me off completely," Owen Roberson said.

AT&T says it will likely start burying the phone lines, which is more expensive in the short term, but may save money and thwart thieves in the long run.

Whether thieves or the phone company are to blame, the Robersons just want fewer hassles and better service.

"It would be nice to have what we're paying for," said Shirlene Roberson.

The phone company is seeing another problem. Many of their phone lines are fiber optic cable, but thieves often don't know that and are stealing them because they think the lines are made of copper. They're basically worthless to thieves, but it costs the company a lot of money to replace.

AT&T is considering offering a reward in this case, which they have done in the past when thieves have targeted certain areas.

The State Senate has approved a measure intended to curb the copper theft in Oklahoma. For more on Senate Bill 472, click here.
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