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Progress Energy: Power line thefts increase in down economic times

Wayne County deputies have charged three people with stealing Progress Energy power lines, authorities said Monday.

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GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Progress Energy officials said Tuesday they have seen an increase in power line thefts, which they attribute to the down economy.

"We do also tend to see thefts rise and fall with the price of copper and other materials," said company spokesman Jeff Brooks.

On Monday, Wayne County deputies charged three people with stealing Progress Energy power lines.

George Morris Daniels, 43, George Abram Daniels, 18, and Vivian Sada Daniels, 19, all of 4127 Lake Wilson Road in Wilson, were charged with felony injury to wires or fixtures used in the transmission of electrical power service, misdemeanor larceny and misdemeanor possession of stolen goods.

Deputies said about $500 in power lines were taken off poles in the northern part of Wayne County.

Meanwhile, Johnston County authorities said they were searching for whoever stole more than a mile of Progress Energy power lines north of Selma on Saturday. Authorities said the wiring was valued at nearly $5,000.

"It hurts the utility, which has to put crews out in the field to replace that, and there's a safety risk for those crews to work with this equipment after it's been tampered with," Brooks said.

Authorities don't want to say how thieves are stealing the wires, and Progress Energy says these thefts are just not smart.

"This particular crime is one in which the risks far outweigh the rewards," Brooks said. "This is a very dangerous place. These lines are designed to carry high voltages of electricity."