SCORES of residents were left without telephone lines or internet connections after yobs tried to steal power cables.
BT received around 90 reports of faults in the Castle Eden and Hesleden areas, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, earlier this week, though bosses at the telecommunications firm say more residents may have been affected.
It came after scrap thieves targeted a large power cable in Hesleden Road, High Hesleden.
The would-be thieves botched the theft and did not get away with any cable. But engineers have spent three days working to repair the fault and restore power to homes.
Police are appealing for witnesses to the incident and for people to report any suspicious road-side activity that looks like it is being carried out by unauthorised people.
Councillor Rob Crute, who represents the Blackhall ward, which includes Castle Eden and Hesleden, was made aware of the incident after a resident reported a fault with street lighting, which was unconnected.
He said he would normally receive complaints about issues like this via phone call or email, but obviously locals were without both sources of communication.
Coun Crute said: “I found out by accident about the cable theft from BT.
“I had a meeting with the community forum on Wednesday night and a man from Hesleden came down to tell me about the problems with internet access and telephones.
“It has had a lot of impact on people and I would imagine it would have caused problems for local businesses, as well as elderly people who couldn’t contact their families.”
He blasted those responsible for trying to steal the cable, saying: “They are trying to make easy money and rake in a few bob, but the inconvenience and cost to communities is immense.”
Inspector Dave Coxon, of Peterlee Police, confirmed that officers are aware of the incident, which was reported overnight between Monday and Tuesday.
He said: “We have got one of the biggest metal theft operations, Operation Hansel, still ongoing and metal thefts are generally way down on what we were experiencing this time last year.
“We have to appreciate the effect this type of crime has on communities and business, which is why we put the resources into it that we have.
“Our advice remains the same – if you see people working at the side of the road and they are not in recognised services vehicles, such as BT, take details of their registration and give us a call.”
A BT spokeswoman said: “This was an attempted cable theft in Hesleden Road, High Hesleden.
“A large cable was cut through and damaged but the thieves did not manage to remove the cable.”
All service was expected to be restored by last night.