Times are still tough for people financially, and metal prices are up. This is a bad combination, as it leads to higher crime rates. People are stealing anything metal that can be torn down and turned in to scrap yards for money.

That’s exactly what the people in Fresno County are dealing with now. But instead of stealing wheels, shopping carts and manhole covers, thieves are knocking over telephone poles, cutting the cables and stealing the copper wire. Copper yields a higher profit for thieves, as copper sits at $3.75 per pound (as of today). The latest crime had 300 feet of wire missing; do the math.

However, while the crooks are making money, AT&T and people of Fresno County are losing it. It’s cost AT&T thousands of dollars, and Fresno County half a million this year to fix. But the costs are only half the problem.

When the telephone poles are knocked down, customers lose access to TV, their internet and phone lines until the poles are put back up and cables spliced back together. This creates a safety issue, as customers won’t be able to contact 911 in an emergency. So it’s a possibility that someone loses their life over this, and with there being over 30 attacks this month alone, that possibility is very real.

“Should someone lose their life as a result of not being able to call out, it could be prosecuted federally,” says Sheriff Mims.

AT&T is offering a reward to anyone who can provide positive leads to the people that might be doing this. The offer originally started at $5,000, but it has now doubled to $10,000. If you have any information that can help AT&T and the people of Fresno County, you’re can call 1-800-807-4205 (AT&T theft line) or the Sheriff’s Department at 498-STOP (7867). [ABC, NBC]