RECKLESS thieves knocked out power to homes and businesses as they risked life and limb for scrap metal.
Homes, pubs and a bingo hall were among premises said to have been plunged into darkness when raiders hit substations in Southwick and caused a power cut.
Police received two reports of copper cable being stolen from substations on Friday – one at 10.55am at The Green and again at 6pm in North Hytlon Road.
Neighbourhood Inspector Lisa Musgrove, who covers Southwick, said: “Whoever is responsible for these thefts needs to be aware they are risking their lives by stealing the cable.
“We know that a rise in the value of metal has seen a rise in the amount being stolen and are consistently targeting those responsible.
“We regularly carry out multi-agency operations, stopping people transporting metal to make sure they are complying with the law and work with scrap metal dealers to identify suspected stolen metal.
“Metal thieves should be warned this activity will continue.”
Paul Norton, head of health and safety for CE Electric UK, warned any other thieves thinking of trying out such daring raids to stay away from substations – for their own sake, and everyone else’s.
“The thieves are lucky to get away, seemingly without injury,” he said.
“We are working closely with Northumbria Police to help them with their investigations and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“In the past four years, we have seen people lose their lives and many more receive horrific electrical burn injuries after trying to steal cables, power lines and other components from our network.”
He added: “The mindless actions of these thieves show the extreme lengths that they are prepared to go to and the complete lack of regard for the consequences of their actions.
“Homes and businesses are often left without power and the thieves leave sites in an unsafe, sometimes dangerous condition for any members of the public who may be in the vicinity.”
“We are asking local residents to be vigilant of any suspicious behaviour, and to contact Northumbria Police immediately or to call our 24-hour emergency helpline on 0800 668877.”
One man said the actions of the foolish thieves had not only put their lives at risk, but caused great inconvenience to many others.
He said: “Homes were left without power and so were bingo players at Savoy Bingo on The Green. Who knows how many players missed out on a single line or full house?
“Drinkers in local bars were also hit by the power cuts when lights and beer pumps stopped working, including Southwick Community Centre in Church Street.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that a 22-year-old man in Leeds suffered horrific burns, needing skin grafts and five operations, after he was hit by 22,000 volts while stealing copper cable from an electricity sub-station.