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Residents must remain vigilant

Most of us know enough about the potential perils of electricity to leave jobs more complicated than changing a light bulb to a licensed electrician.

Our parents taught us about the dangers posed by electrical outlets and lamp sockets, and we learned — sometimes very quickly — what can happen when you mix metal and electricity.

Those too stubborn to heed their parents’ advice usually found that a mini-blackout was the least of their worries — finding out things the hard way can be a shock to the system.

Our elders also taught us to stay away from outdoor power lines, so we’ve always been careful to keep our distance. Those overhead wires may look innocent enough, but we know what can happen if we make contact.

But after reading our police blotter in Saturday’s issue, it’s clear that some people don’t know when to leave well enough alone, and they’re taking risks that not only threaten their own safety but could also hurt the rest of us.

The city of Denton and Denton Municipal Electric issued an alert last week urging residents to be watchful about copper thefts after thousands of dollars of the metal was taken from utility poles in the 800 block of James Street recently.

City officials told us that thieves cut copper wiring from nine utility poles that spanned the length of the block.

Copper thefts are not a new problem. We often read about thieves dismantling equipment for the wiring or plundering copper tubing from construction sites. Such vandalism is expensive, typically costing property owners much more in repair work than it nets the thieves.

But many of these cases don’t involve public welfare. This latest incident is especially alarming because tampering with utility lines and removing wiring is not only dangerous, but it can also disrupt the flow of electricity and, depending on the systems involved, telecommunications and other services.

DME reported that it estimates the financial loss from the theft to be nearly $7,000, which includes the cost of the stolen wire, cost of replacing the stolen wire and labor and equipment costs.

Luckily, this is the only theft DME officials have experienced in the past several months, and they are working with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office and the Denton Police Department to help identify the suspects involved.

One of the best ways to fight such theft is reporting suspicious activities, and police are encouraging anyone who believes they are witnessing a copper theft to contact authorities immediately.

Do not attempt to engage or stop the theft, stay a safe distance from the activity and wait for police to arrive.

A few bucks worth of scrap metal isn’t worth risking your life, and it’s certainly not worth destroying systems that serve the entire community.

But some people are obviously too stupid to do the math, so do them a favor and dial police if you see anything suspicious.

You might just save a life, and at the very least, you could save all of us a lot of money and aggravation.