FRESNO (CBS/AP) — Brazen thieves are now knocking down utility poles in rural areas of the Central Valley to get valuable copper wiring.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said the new tactic by wire thieves endangers motorists who come across down lines and poles on darkened roadways.

Additionally, hundreds of residents cannot make emergency 911 calls.

The sheriff was joined at a Wednesday news conference by AT&T representatives.

To reach copper wire, thieves are cutting guy wires that support poles and they use a vehicle to knock them down. In neighboring Madera County, eight poles have recently been knocked down by thieves.

Recyclers pay cash for copper wire.

AT&T is offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of wire thieves who knock down power poles.

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(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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