Public put at risk by substation intruders, police and NIE warn

COPPER thieves are putting lives at risk by targeting electricity substations in the Larne area, police have warned.

Both the PSNI and NIE voiced concerns after break-ins at Ballyvallagh Road, Ballyhampton Road and Inverbeg Court were discovered last week. The major substations provide power to customers throughout East Antrim including Larne, Carnlough, Cushendall and Ballyclare.

The electricity company said those responsible are “lucky to be alive” and the police have warned the thieves are putting everyone else at risk.

“Metal and cable thieves put lives at risk by their actions,” said a PSNI spokesperson, who stressed to the public: “They risk the lives of you and your family by cutting off emergency 999 calls, leaving electric sites and derelict houses unsafe and insecure for children to enter and even stealing manhole covers, with potentially serious consequences for a cyclist or pedestrian.”

The PSNI have been working with utility companies and other police services to make everyone more aware of the dangers caused by the theft of metal and cable.

“Everyone can play a part by being a good neighbour and encouraging others to do the same,” said the spokesperson. “Suspicious people, particularly at unexpected hours of the day, apparently working by the road-side, in empty houses or any type of site or yard could leave your community and your family in danger and should always be reported to police.”

The telephone number to ring is 0845 600 8000.

NIE health and safety manager Roy Coulter urged: “We would appeal to all members of the local community to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity around NIE equipment on 08457 643643 or to the PSNI.”

The break-ins show evidence that vandals interfered with live electricity equipment, putting themselves at risk of electrocution. Mr Coulter explained: “These substations are full of live equipment which runs at an extremely high voltage. Live equipment is unforgiving and extremely dangerous. These vandals were lucky that they made it out alive.”

NIE teams have re-secured the substations and repaired the damage.