NIE has issued a strong safety warning following a spate of damage to electricity equipment in the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas.
There have been ten separate incidents since September 2012 where overhead electricity lines or poles have been brought down risking the serious injury of the perpetrators, passers-by or livestock and leaving homes and businesses without power for a short time.
NIE told the MAIL that their main concerns with the rising number of these kinds of incidents is the potential danger that people are putting themselves and others in.
Sam Gibson, NIE Asset Management, said, “Anyone interfering with electricity equipment is putting their lives at risk.
“They are also showing a complete disregard for the local community by leaving equipment in a dangerous state and in many cases leaving local homes without power.
“We are working closely with the PSNI to stamp out this type of practice and would encourage anyone in the local community who has information to come forward.”
A recent power cut in Magherafelt was believed to have been caused by the theft of live overhead electricity lines at Glenmaquill Road.
Mid Ulster MLA Sandra Overend expressed her alarm of the lenghts which thieves were now prepapred to go to.
Speaking to the MAIL, Mrs Overend said: “In recent years there has been a marked increase in metal thefts.
“This type of crime has a huge cost to the owners of the buildings and services where these metals are being stolen from, and can often be potentially life threatening for the would-be-thieves as they scale buildings and work around live electricity.
“I am happy to say that my Ulster Unionist colleague, Roy Beggs MLA, is bringing forward a consultation ahead of a Private Member’s Bill on tackling the practice of metal thefts and I fully support his efforts.”
Cookstown UUP Councillor Trevor Wilson also welcomed the consultation process. Cllr Wilson commented;
“I am very happy to support the creation of a bill which will bring about measures to help combat the problem of metal theft in Cookstown. According to PSNI figures, in the calendar year of 2012 there were 27 instances of metal theft in Cookstown council area and there have been significant increases from 2007/08. The Serious and Organised Crime Strategy notes that the theft of metal for sale as scrap is on the rise in the UK as a result of the increasing price of metal. It is therefore important that we legislate to help reduce metal theft in Cookstown and to ensure that Northern Ireland does not become a sanctuary for metal thieves who cannot circumvent the new legislation in England and Wales.
Cllr Wilson has urged everyone in the Cookstown area to respond to the consultation which is available for completion on Roy Beggs’ website, www.roybeggs.co.uk/scrap-metal/ . Responses are required to strengthen the proposal that the trade of metal for scrap should be further regulated to help deter metal thieves.