Verizon offers $50K reward to thwart copper theft in Western, Pa.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has once again found itself fighting copper thieves in Western, Pa., so it is offering a reward for up to $50,000 to apprehend whoever is responsible for stealing cable in Beaver, Fayette, Lawrence and Washington counties.

The service provider said the most recent theft took place on Jan. 30 in Wampum, where thieves stole about 200 feet of copper cable near the intersection of Old Route 18 and Route 18, taking out service for more than 90 Verizon customers. 

Copper theft continued to be a chronic problem for Verizon throughout the past year.

It reported nearly 30 incidents have occurred, with over 16,000 feet of copper cable stolen and more than $300,000 in damage. Most of these thefts took place in the Brownsville, Burgettstown, New Castle and Wampum areas.

Verizon said that these thefts caused telephone service delays--up to several days in some areas--for hundreds of local phone customers.

The state is fighting back. Under Act 192, Pennsylvania has increased the penalties for the theft of secondary metals like copper, making the theft a third-degree felony when the value of the stolen metal is $1,000 or more or when the theft is the third or subsequent offense, regardless of the value of the metal.

A similar law was enacted in West Virginia in 2012. Fueled by similar theft on Frontier Communications' network, a group of lawmakers developed SB528, a law that requires scrap metal dealers to obtain a business license and retain information from each scrap metal transaction. Other states, including Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky and Washington, have also developed laws to help curb copper theft. 

Just last month, Verizon announced it would offer a $10,000 reward to apprehend thieves that stole copper cable in its Southern California market.

Copper theft has been an ongoing issue for all of the top U.S. telcos. AT&T (NYSE: T), FairPoint (Nasdaq: FRP), Frontier (Nasdaq: FTR) and Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) continue to fight similar battles in their markets.

For more:
- see the release

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