Copper wire (Pixabay)

Copper wire (Pixabay)

Renton Police warn of increased copper wire theft in recent weeks

The department says multiple suspected thieves have been arrested near PSE power line system.

Renton Police have reported an increase in the theft of copper power lines within recent weeks and have made several arrests of suspects believed to have been involved in copper theft.

On April 2 around 10 am, Renton Police reported sending officers to a construction site near the 300 block of Edmonds Ave SE after a concerned neighbor had called and reported two men apparently taking copper cable at a Puget Sound Energy work site.

Arriving officers found a 64-year-old Ravensdale man and a 56-year-old Kent man pulling on a rope hooked to a length of copper power cable that was not an actively used power line. Police allege the cable had been cut in between power towers, and was hung up in a tree. A 39-year-old Auburn man wearing a climbing harness and carrying a cordless saw was in the tree, apparently preparing to cut the cable free.

All three were arrested for Attempted Theft in the First Degree.

Around 2 pm the same day, officers were sent to the 2900 block of SE Royal Hills Dr regarding a theft in progress.

The same Puget Sound Energy power line system crosses the Cedar River just north of this location, and continues South towards Covington. An area resident called 911 after seeing two men stealing copper cable near Beacon Way SE. When officers arrived, they reportedly saw a red truck on a parallel access road.

The officers contacted a 53-year-old Seatac man and a 46-year-old Burien man, who was determined to be the owner of the truck. The men had chainsaws, a number of reciprocating saws, ropes, and even a generator.

When the officers arrived, the two had already cut six copper cables free of the tower, and were pulling one of the lengths of cable free from a tree with a rope. One was interviewed and later released, while the second was arrested on a Department of Corrections warrant; authorities say both face charges of Theft in the Second Degree.

Just after 8:30 am on April 3, the same squad of officers were sent to the same area, after another neighbor called 911 about a group of people and vehicles seen parked on the access road.

Police say two of the vehicles left prior to the officers’ arrival, but a number of subjects equipped with climbing harnesses and tools were found with three vehicles at the scene. No one was actually seen committing a crime, and all were identified and then released.

On April 4 at about 2:30 am, a resident at the Brighton Ridge apartments called to report that a male was using some kind of saw to take items from a power line. Responding officers found a 44-year-old Seattle man approximately 75-feet up a power line tower just South of the apartments; this is further North on the same power line complex as the other incidents.

The man attempted to conceal a portable bandsaw by leaving it hanging some 50 feet up the tower; a utility crew later retrieved the saw for detectives. The man was booked for theft.

Police say at about 9:38 am on April 5, a Liberty Ridge resident called 911 after seeing a suspicious car in the area of SE 3rd St and Edmonds Ave NE, near the site of the previous arrests.

Officers contacted the car and driver nearby, and observed cordless saws and climbing harnesses inside the car. They were reportedly unable to develop probable cause to arrest for any immediate offense, but arrested the driver on a felony warrant arising from a weapons charge.

“This is an alarming amount of similar criminal activity in a very short time,” the Renton Police Department wrote in a Facebook post. “Our concerns are not only due to the thefts themselves, but due to the safety hazard that this kind of activity creates.”

The department said on April 6 that Puget Sound Energy contractors were working to remove the targeted lines, but uncontrolled cutting of the cables can result in failure of the high voltage towers carrying them. Police said the contractors have already had recent close calls when thieves cut lines that were being actively worked.

Renton Police urged those who live and work next to these targeted power lines to have their eyes peeled for thieves and to report suspicious activity.

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