TALLMANSVILLE — Thieves stole about 120 feet of copper wire off telephone poles along the Tallmansville Road, leaving many Upshur County residents without phone service over the holidays, law enforcement officials reported Friday afternoon.
The theft, which occurred about 9.5 miles out Tallmansville Road, will impact service for customers from that point east, to the end of the 472 exchange. Residents in that area will also be unable to contact 911 on their home phones in the case of emergency.
Investigating officer Cpl. T.A. Menendez with the Buckhannon detachment of the West Virginia State Police said Friday copper wire on the pole in front of the address 9565 Tallmansville Rd. “all the way out through Queens” to the end of the 472 exchange had been removed.
“It seems to be occurring in the Tallmansville Road area,” Menendez said. “Last week, there was a theft on Sand Run where they stole it there. They just go right up and cut the line off the pole.”
After speaking with a representative from Frontier, Menendez said it could be Monday — or longer — before phone service is restored.
“Now, elderly people or other sick people out there can’t even call 911 if they need to,” he added. “They’re up the proverbial creek.”
The theft occurred some time between 4 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday morning.
But by late Friday night, Menendez said he’d developed some suspects and “some really good leads,” including tracking the aluminum casing that contains the wires to Jerry’s Salvage in Tennerton.
Menendez said the copper wire thefts have been recently occurring within a few square miles of Preacher Tenney Road.
The trooper said he believes the suspects are from the northern part of the county — and included a warning to people living in the southern part of the county who see vehicles driving around aimlessly at night.
“Any vehicles driving around Selbyville and Alexander and the Frenchton area after dark, they’re up to no good,” Menendez said. “Those areas shut down at night. Now, these copper thieves from the northern part of the county are a whole different brand of thugs.”
Anyone with relevant information is asked to contact the WVSP and Menendez specifically at 304-473-4200.
Copper theft has been a problem in recent years across West Virginia.
In a memo released Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice said a mine rescue in Boone County in late November was related to thieves who entered an abandoned underground coal mine near Wharton, W.Va. searching for copper.
Two people — Amanda Pennington and Gray Gibson — have been arrested in that case, while a third, Wes Blackburn, is still missing.
Mine rescue crews searched the mine until encountering roof falls and determined it was unsafe to continue the search for Blackburn.