780 thousand dollar copper theft behind power outage: cops

Police have busted an organized crime syndicate that allegedly stole $780,000 worth of copper from a TV company's pits, causing internet and power outages.

11 people have been arrested as part of a police investigation into 50 large-scale copper thefts in Melbourne's north in the first six months of the year.

It is believed that the perpetrators used portable power tools to cut telecommunications pits in residential streets and stole large quantities of copper.

Police said the damage caused internet and power outages and significant distress for those affected.

On June 29, police executed search warrants at several properties and recovered approximately $95,000 worth of stolen copper.

Six people were arrested during the search, including a 43-year-old man accused of criminally damaging $30,000 worth of telecommunications track pits and stealing $215,000 worth of copper cable.

Detective Inspector Patrick Watkinson said such thefts “affect us all” as damage to critical infrastructure can affect telecommunications networks, public transport signals and power supplies.

“We hope this sends a clear message to second-hand dealers who are tempted to make a quick buck,” he said.

A scrap metal business in Reservoir was also forced to close for two years after it allegedly received $260,000 in stolen goods.

The 58-year-old owner was charged with 10 counts of handling stolen goods without regard to the proceeds of crime and two counts of possession of suspect property.

He was also charged with paying for scrap metal in cash and failing to keep prescribed records.

He was granted bail in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on December 1.

Anyone with information about the crime is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au