A tip from a 911 caller led Anne Arundel County police to arrest four people accused of cutting copper wire from a utility pole and causing an overnight power outage to 1,800 BGE customers in Odenton.
The tipster called 911 early Friday morning and reported seeing two men carrying spools of wire from behind a business on Annapolis Road in Odenton, said Anne Arundel Police Chief Kevin Davis. They got into a Chevrolet Impala that had one headlight burned out.
A patrol officer pulled the car over and found four people inside, along with 250 feet of copper wire and tools, including a long-handled cutter normally used for tree-trimming, Davis said.
The thieves cut wires that weren't carrying electricity, police and BGE officials said, but they made contact with live wires, knocking out power to 1,786 customers for about an hour.
Jason Nelson Tomlinson, 29, of Clinton was charged with theft of less than $1,000, malicious destruction of property, identity theft, making a false statement to police and a parole violation. Jim Brown Nichols, 32, of Odenton was charged with theft of less than $1,000, malicious destruction of property and traffic charges. Michael Joseph Spenard, 24, of Suitland and Melissa Ann Howell, 27, of Waldorf each were charged with theft of less than $1,000 and malicious destruction of property.
Theft is a pervasive problem in Anne Arundel, where it constitutes 69 percent of crime, Davis said, and theft of copper wire and other precious metals is "the crime du jour not only in Anne Arundel County, but in the region."
Rachael Lighty, a BGE spokeswoman, said stealing wire or electrical equipment can be dangerous.
"They're putting their lives and other people's lives in danger," she said. "They could just be lucky that they weren't hurt."
The copper wire stolen in Odenton was worth about $300, Lighty said. Scrap yards buy copper wire for about $3 per pound.