Many residents of Warren County have been without AT&T internet for weeks.
However, the cause isn’t lack of action on the provider’s end. According to local law enforcement and AT&T itself, the culprit is copper thieves.
The issue is primarily in the Kirkland Hill and U.S. 61 South area, where customers have been without internet access since Dec. 23.
An AT&T spokesperson said the company is well-aware of the issue and is working to find a solution.
“We are working to restore internet and home phone service to some customers in Warren County after repeated copper thefts have impacted our wireline network, including an incident that occurred overnight,” the spokesperson said. “We are cooperating with local law enforcement, who is investigating to find those responsible.”
Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said this is not a new problem, and that it’s not exclusive to Warren County — copper theft affects municipalities across the country.
Pace confirmed the Tuesday night theft, and said it occurred in a densely wooded area off U.S. 61 South.
Most often in these cases, Pace said copper thieves will climb power poles, cut telephone lines and drop them down to accomplices on the ground. From there, the thieves melt off the insulation surrounding the cable with the intent of selling the copper to procure illegal substances.
While a number of arrests have been made, Pace said the help of the public is still needed to stop copper theft from telephone cables.
“The way the public can help is if they see someone at a light pole who isn’t in a clearly marked utility company vehicle, they need to call 911,” he said.
Pace also explained that Warren County’s proximity to Louisiana presents an additional challenge when trying to track down copper thieves.
“The scrap law in Mississippi says you cannot receive cash when you bring items in. You have to provide a valid ID, and the scrapper will then mail a check to the address on the ID,” Pace said.
“To further complicate our investigations, most of the stolen wire from our area is not being sold in Mississippi. It’s going out of state, specifically in Louisiana, where they are not as stringent on IDs and they can be paid at the vendor,” he added. “Mississippi has excellent laws that regulate scrap yards and local scrappers are very cooperative with law enforcement.”
Anyone with information on the thefts is encouraged to call local law enforcement or AT&T Asset Protection at 1-888-871-2622. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
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