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Deputies: Springfield man caught for the third time in 60 days stealing utility wire

If a Springfield man gets out of jail, the court will track his whereabouts because deputies say they caught him stealing phone wiring for the third time. In 60 days, prosecutors charged William L. Ritter three times with tampering with service of a utility or institution and stealing wire.

On July 9, deputies first arrested Ritter with Jonathon W. Goetz. They say they found the pair cutting phone lines in the area near 6454 N. Farm Road 159.  “If somebody needs to call 911 because they are sick it's a bad situation,” neighbor Billie Haymes said.

Haymes says wire theft is on the rise in his neighborhood. “There's been three different times,” Haymes said. “The big one was at McDaniel Lake.” Deputies say Ritter’s theft cut service to 639 landlines and more. “Not only did they knock out hundreds and hundreds of landline customers they knocked out a wireless tower now potentially you've knocked hundreds possible thousands of people's ability to make a cell phone call,” AT&T Regional Director of External Affairs Mike Haynes said. “911 is not something you call everyday but when you need it, it's very, very important.”

Deputies say just six days after getting caught on Farm Road 159; Ritter was back stealing on Old Willard Road. On July 13, he posted a $7,500 bond. On July 15, deputies arrested him again for the same crime. "I think it ought to be a little more serious,” Haymes said. “I don't think he ought to be let out."

On August 3, Ritter posted a $25,000. About one month later, deputies say they found him again stealing wire on Farm Road 164 cutting service to 100 to 150 customers. A judge set his bond at $100,000. If he posts bond, he will be monitored by an ankle bracelet.

AT&T's system sets off an alarm at their network operations center any time there is a major service failure. The company also marks its wire every two feet to make it easy to identify and more difficult to sell.

Since March, Greene County deputies investigated more than 50 incidents of stolen wire. Deputies say thieves target the phone cable because of the copper wire inside. They say scrap prices of copper wire have been on the rise throughout the country and the thieves have been selling the wire as scrap to local recyclers.

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