New York transit officials said that Subway service was disrupted on Wednesday due to the theft of huge amounts of copper cable from train tracks.
Thieves made off with 500 feet of cable, leaving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with no choice but to suspend services between the Rockaway Boulevard and Broad Channel stations in Queens, New York. Replacement shuttle buses were laid on during the morning rush, according to Karen Matthews of the Associated Press.
Major disruption along heavily used lines
Cable was stolen from 12 locations along the tracks, causing delays and overcrowding along the entirety of the A and C lines, which transport 775,000 passengers per day, according to the MTA.
Workers discovered the theft late on Tuesday after a train lost power just outside the Howard Beach station in Queens, New York. Passengers from the stricken service were evacuated using another train which was brought in behind, and they walked through the carriages to return to the station.
“We are working closely with the NYPD Transit Bureau to help them investigate this crime and identify the culprits responsible,” New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco said.
Pressure to secure tracks against thieves
A lawmaker who represents the area where the thefts took place implored MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast to carry out an investigation. “I am alarmed by reported security breaches along the A train and the failure to put in place effective alternative travel plans for our families,” Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder said.
By late Wednesday morning services had been partially restored, but New York residents have been warned that shuttle buses are due to replace trains once again this Wednesday night in order to allow workers to carry out repairs.
Copper has become an increasingly popular target for thieves, who steal wire from railroads and utilities nationwide before selling it as scrap. On Wednesday a pound of copper was trading for approximately $2.80.
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The MTA has fallen victim to a number of copper thefts, including one scheme involving over a dozen employees of the Long Island Rail Road. The group were arrested in 2013, charged with conspiring to sell $250,000 worth of copper wire over the course of 3 years.
Those convicted of copper theft in New York state face a jail sentence of 15 months to 4 years in prison, more if they are convicted of grand larceny.