Raiders are ‘dicing with death’

Electricity sub station, Lewes
Electricity sub station, Lewes

A deadly trail of destruction left by criminals at crucial electricity sub-station sites across Lewes has prompted an urgent public appeal by the county’s power distributor.

UK Power Networks, which owns and runs East Sussex’s electricity network, has reported seven attacks on its equipment in the town over the past month and is asking the public for its support in reporting to Sussex Police any suspicious activity.

Colin Barden, Head of Network Operations in the South East, said: “The intruders have blatantly ignored danger of death signs and forced entry to a series of sites before tampering with live equipment at their peril.

“There is no doubt in my mind they are risking life-changing burns and death for the sake of a few pounds, endangering our dedicated staff and innocent members of the public – plus it could cause power cuts for the area.

“We are working closely with the police to support their investigations and we intend to press for the prosecution of anyone who is caught tampering with our equipment.

“We thank the public for their support and hope they can help us by being extra vigilant for suspicious activity around our sites.”

In one case thieves caused £800 of damage when they stole some copper worth just £22.

In another case around 1,700 customers lost their power supplies when the network was interfered with.

The spate of break-ins, theft and criminal damage has left sites unsecured and created death traps for unsuspecting power engineers sent to carry out inspections, maintenance or repairs.

Spanning four weeks the crime spree includes:

EFive generator leads stolen from a site on September 3

ESafety locks on live equipment were vandalised, equipment was tampered with and essential safety earthing was stolen from the same site on September 2

EA different site was damaged during a break-in on August 23 but nothing was stolen

EMetal was taken from equipment at the same site just a few days earlier on August 20

ECopper worth about £57 was taken from equipment at a substation in the town on August 20, but the costs of the damage and repair work were around £800

E£22-worth of copper was taken from another site in the town on the same day, causing £800 damage

EA power cut affecting 1,727 customers was caused by deliberate interference with equipment at an electricity substation in the town on August 4

A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “We are aware of recent incidents at electricity installations in the area and are working closely with UK Power Networks to find those responsible and help prevent further incidents.

“If you see anything suspicious around installations of this type, dial 999 right away.”

Electricity substations and overhead lines are vital parts of the distribution network and are located in the community to deliver power to homes and businesses.

The company urges people to report any suspicious activity to police and UK Power Networks on 0800 587 3243.

UK Power Networks distributes more than a quarter of the country’s electricity through its networks serving London, the South East and the East of England. The company was named Utility of the Year 2012 and also won the Team of the Year award in the prestigious Utility Industry Achievement Awards.