Farmers warned to be wary of metal theft

A new campaign to prevent metal theft is warning farmers with overhead power lines on their land to be vigilant of “suspicious activity”, and to report such activity to the Gardaí.

The campaign is jointly organised by Crimestoppers, An Garda Síochána and ESB Networks. The organisers are calling on members of the general public to be wary and vigilant of suspicious activity and to report it.

In a joint statement, the groups behind the campaign called on “members of the public and, in particular, the farming community with overhead power lines on their land, to be vigilant for suspicious activity and to report any matters of concern to An Garda Síochána”.

Affecting a large number of businesses and communities and exposing the public to real and actual danger, metal theft includes the theft of electricity cables, copper wires, beer kegs, electrical goods, road signs, letter boxes and goal posts.

“Ireland’s electricity, public transport and telecommunications networks have all been victims of metal theft, with criminals removing large amounts of electrical cable, signal cable and copper wire,” said the statement.

It was noted that there has been a “sharp increase” in ESB station break-ins resulting in the theft of electrical cable.

So far this year, the number of high-voltage station break-ins has doubled compared to the figures for 2018 and 2017.

According to the campaign organisers, serious injuries and even fatalities have resulted from metal theft. There have been 43 break-ins to ESB Networks substations in 2019.

Information on suspicious activity can be given anonymously to the Crimestoppers confidential telephone service by calling: 1800-250025. Information can also be provided to local Garda stations, or to ESB Networks on: 1850-372999.

The campaign follows on from the establishment of the metal theft forum in 2012, which was designed to develop a metal theft prevention and reduction plan.

“We are asking anyone with information on metal theft in their community to contact Crimestoppers. Any member of the public can call Crimestoppers and provide valuable information without leaving their name or any personal details,” said John Murphy, chairman of Crimestoppers.

We understand that the ability to give information anonymously can often be an important incentive and could help to secure a conviction.

Meanwhile, John O’Driscoll, assistant commissioner of An Garda Síochána, said: “I am specifically appealing to any person involved in the purchase or resale of metal products to ask appropriate questions and report unusual sources of metal.”

Paul Mulvaney, executive director of network customer delivery with the ESB, said: “The theft of live copper wire continues to be an issue for ESB Networks. Not only are the perpetrators of this illegal activity putting their lives at risk, they are also endangering the lives of members of the public.”