One dead and three seriously hurt in live power line thefts
One person has been killed and at least three others seriously injured while attempting to steal metal from live ESB lines, the electricity provider has revealed.
Up to 27,000 ESB customers suffered power cuts as a result of widespread metal theft so far this year, while 81,000 customer hours were lost during that time.
Head of Distribution and Customer Services at ESB Networks Senan Colleran told the Herald that metal thieves were "taking their lives into their own hands".
"Today, we know of one fatality and three very serious injuries from people breaking in to substations or cutting down wires," he said.
"We've had a number of reports of people who were burned and who fell off poles trying to steal wires, so they're bringing huge risk to themselves."
Mr Colleran added that the risk was not just limited to the perpetrators, but also put members of the public, farmers and ESB staff in danger.
"In many cases, hazards are left for the public and for farmers and landowners alike. There have been small fires caused," he said.
There have been 43 break-ins to ESB substations and 48 live line thefts so far in 2015.
The ESB estimates that the aftermath of metal theft has cost them €27m since 2012, and that 140km of copper conductor has been taken in those three years.
The state company also said that the consequential costs can dwarf the price of the stolen copper when it is sold on by gangs.
Live conductors left exposed and weakened poles that could fall on to cars were other examples of the knock-on effects of thefts.
Mr Colleran was launching a joint campaign with Crimestoppers and the Garda Siochana to combat metal theft nationwide. The organisations are encouraging the public to be vigilant and report any instances of metal theft in their communities.
Derek Byrne, Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, said that the crimes normally occur late at night or early in the morning, where small groups cut wires and cables and take them from the scene.
"What we're noticing is that these thefts occur in predominantly rural areas, off the main roads," he said.
"There is some scouting involved a day or two beforehand - there's no doubt about that."
Mr Byrne also called on communities to come together to tackle metal theft by contacting gardai or Crimestoppers.
"I think the rural community, particularly farmers, have a big role to play in this. They are impacted," he said.
"There was a whole field destroyed in terms of repairing the cables. That caused a huge impact for the farmer involved."
So far, companies like Irish Rail, Eircom, Diageo, An Post and WEEE Ireland have been affected.
In 2013, metal theft was identified as having the fastest growing crime rates in the world.