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Preventing Copper Theft in W.Va.

February 16, 2012
By BILL MOON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The people of West Virginia want and deserve reliable communications services, and Frontier Communications is committed to meeting its customers' expectations. But copper thieves have become increasingly selfish in West Virginia and other states, placing their own interests ahead of the safety and well-being of families, schools, businesses and entire communities.

Rather than focus on the financial motives of the criminals who are creating these problems, I want to focus on how Frontier is approaching copper theft in West Virginia.

First and foremost, public vigilance is critical in detecting and deterring copper theft. Utilities have expansive systems that serve their customers across large geographic regions. As a result, those systems are vulnerable to many risks - some natural, some manmade, some accidental, some criminal.

We work each day to protect our network so we can provide reliable, quality services to families and businesses that depend on their telephones and Internet connections for safety and commercial reasons. Quite simply, we understand that families and businesses deserve to have the opportunity to contact family members, emergency services and others when they want to. But criminals have become increasingly brazen in stealing Frontier's cable, creating risks and inconvenience for our customers.

As a result of the copper theft epidemic, Frontier experiences hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses each year across the state, and then must direct employees to repair the thieves' damage.

Our employees would rather work at expanding and strengthening our network than repairing the damage that thieves have caused.

We recognize that local residents and business managers who depend on our services also may become aware of criminal activity in their communities. That is why Frontier has established a toll-free information hotline - 800-590-6605 - to accept calls from citizens who have information about copper theft. They can leave information anonymously and our security staff will ensure confidentiality.

At the same time, Frontier's corporate security team, seeking prosecution to the fullest extent possible, works with law enforcement and prosecutors in assembling the evidence they need to move their case through the courts. The company recently brought on board Bryan Stover, an experienced law enforcement professional, to serve as security specialist in West Virginia. He is focusing a great deal of his time on copper theft.

Law enforcement personnel have many responsibilities, and we appreciate their support in addressing this growing problem.

While we work within our communities and with law enforcement to address this serious problem, we want to be sure that police agencies, prosecutors and courts are equipped with laws that can help them protect our citizens. Frontier is working within a coalition of utilities, law enforcement officials, recycling businesses and others to develop those laws.

We are encouraging state officials to craft legislation that will make profiting from stealing copper more difficult. We believe West Virginians understand that copper thieves are stealing from their own communities, creating unacceptable public safety risks and disrupting business activity. We are confident our elected leaders want to protect the interests of law-abiding citizens and business managers. We are hopeful the Legislature will take the appropriate steps to discourage criminals who place their neighbors at risk for the sake of money.

We are all in this together, and Frontier is eager to play its part in addressing this sad epidemic.

Guest columnist Moon is the Frontier Communications general manager for the Wheeling market, which includes Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties.

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