Belfast Telegraph

Street light copper thieves risk death by electrocution

By Brendan McDaid

Thieves are risking death by electrocution while stripping live street lights of copper wire in Londonderry.

Damage to street lights, which will cost ratepayers in the city £30,000 to repair, has been uncovered.

The culprits have homed in on parts of the city’s extensive public path and cycle way network, including the area running alongside the playing pitches in Prehen in the Waterside where eight lights have been vandalised.

In the cityside, the mile-and-a-half stretch along the linear cycle path and walkway encircling Galliagh from Templemore Sports Complex to Sandbank Cottages has also been targeted, with 12 of the 18 street lights damaged there.

Both walkways have now been plunged into darkness at night because power has had to be cut from the damaged lights.

This has led to safety fears for parents, walkers, joggers and cyclists.

The pathways are owned by the Department for Social Development, but are maintained by Derry City Council.

Senior recreation and leisure officer Jeff Ashe said people were risking their lives for a few hundred pounds.

Mr Ashe said: “Whoever is doing this, they seem to be professional enough, confident enough, as regards when and where they are doing it.

“It is a crying shame. They will get at most a few hundred pounds, but this will cost £30,000 to repair.

“The action of stripping out these |cables poses a great danger to whoever is doing this. What they are doing is pulling the cables out, taking them somewhere and lighting a bonfire and throwing them on the bonfire. They are then left with the bare copper and they roll it into a ball.”

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland Electricity yesterday warned of the dangers of touching live wires.

She said: “All live electricity equipment is dangerous and anyone deliberately tampering with it is putting themselves at risk.”

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