Hawaiian Telcom hit by copper thieves, 600+ customers potentially impacted

Copper thieves have struck again, and it’s affecting landline phone and internet service for potentially hundreds of Hawaiian Telcom customers.

Hawaiian Telcom was alerted by a customer about the outage early Tuesday morning.

It took crews several hours to discover the source of the outage.

Thieves broke into a manhole in Moanalua Gardens and stole about 50 feet of copper wiring.

“This is the fourth time this area has been hit. Despite the steps we’ve taken to try to prevent the theft. You can see on the corners of the manhole cover right here, those are the weld points,” said Hawaiian Telcom Spokesperson Su Shin.

Crews have been welding the manhole covers shut because of the copper thefts. And that particular manhole is right across the freeway from Hawaiian Telcom’s baseyard in Mapunapuna.

“Even though 50 feet were stolen, we have to essentially replace 400 feet,” Shin said.

The replacement extends from another manhole in Moanalua Gardens all the way across the freeway to the other side.

KHON2 asked: “What’s the answer to stopping these thefts?”

Shin replied: “We wish we knew what the answer was. You know we do things like welding the manhole covers shut and we hope that will serve as somewhat of a deterrent but the reality is as long as these thieves can sell this copper and get money for it, they’ll continue to try to steal it.”

Unfortunately, this time around, as many as 600 Hawaiian Telcom customers in Moanalua and Mapunapuna are affected, and that includes Hawaiian Telcom’s own baseyard.

KHON2 asked: “How big of a problem is it having copper stolen from Hawaiian Telcom?”

Shin replied: “You know it’s a fairly sizeable problem. We probably have about 15 to 20 copper thefts a year.”

In fact, they just had three additional incidents over the past week.

Thieves stole Hawaiian Telcom copper wiring twice from Kalihi Valley last week — from a communication cable that served the Board of Water Supply.

And then just over the weekend, someone even climbed up a utility pole in Kalaeloa and tried to saw off the cable. But the saw apparently got stuck, so he or she took off without the loot and just left the damaged cable behind.

KHON2 asked: “Who foots the bill for all this?”

Shin replied: “I mean we do of course. It’s our infrastructure, our facility so we have to spend the money to repair it and get our customers back up and running.”

If you’re one of the customers affected by this, you’ll probably be without landline or internet service for at least several more days. Hawaiian Telcom expects to finish the repairs by Friday.

“We really really want to get the word out to the public that any sort of suspicious activity that they should report it to 911 immediately. This is a huge problem and we really need everyone’s help and vigilance,” Shin added.

Copper theft of one pound or more was established as a Class C Felony in the state of Hawaii in 2007 to deter the growing incidents of copper theft (HRS 708-835.7).

The public is encouraged to call 911 to report suspicious activity to police or to Hawaiian Telcom security at 643-7111.

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