A massive increase in organized “attacks” on the distribution power network in central England has resulted in more than a dozen downed wooden poles and thousands of customers without power in a week, E.ON UK said last week.

"Like everyone else, we’ve seen metal thefts increasing for a number of years but what we hadn’t seen before were thieves going to such lengths,” said John Crackett, managing director of E.ON’s distribution business. “Simply put, they use a chainsaw to cut down the wooden poles and get access to our cabling.”

E.ON UK said the chainsaw attacks appear to be “an increasing trend.” The company’s distribution engineers either discovered or were alerted to a total of 14 electricity poles that had been cut down using chainsaws in the last week of July alone.

"Even ignoring the danger of cutting down a pole that has wires carrying 11,000 volts at the top of it and leaving those wires, which could still be live, hanging near to the ground, this costs us money and causes massive inconvenience to our customers,” Crackett said.

Incidents included a farmer’s discovery of a cut pole with live conductors hanging three feet from the ground in Welton, Lincolnshire. On that day, engineers discovered two poles cut and wires rolled up and ready to go in Doddington, Lincolnshire. That incident left more than 1,850 customers without power. One person has been arrested by police in connection with the incident, E.ON reports.

Earlier that week, the company reported that a wooden pole had been cut through in “broad daylight” in a field near Wednesfield near Wolverhampton, leaving 4,600 customers without power.

Sources: E.ON, POWERnews