METAL thieves cut off the telephone lines of 55 homes after they ripped more than 600ft of cable out of the ground.
The houses in Flint Walk, in the Throston area of Hartlepool, also lost their internet connection when the criminals struck.
Police hunting those responsible for stealing the two 300ft cables on Monday, are now appealing for residents’ help to put an end to the problem of metal thefts.
Inspector Lee Rukin, of Hartlepool Police, said: “We have a number of officers working under the banner of Operation Duracell in both plain clothes and uniform, but need help from the local community to report any activity they think might be suspicious.
“There’s too many occasions when residents have been woken to suspicious noises and have seen people climbing on and off roofs with bags and even torches.
“We need to be informed straight away so our resources can catch these criminals.”
Scrapyards have also been raided as part of a joint effort by the Cleveland and Durham forces to stop the rise in metal thefts.
Operation Hansel saw yards in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and County Durham searched with one-and-a-half tonnes of suspected stolen copper cable seized.
Nine arrests were made, including a man from Blackhall after metal gates that were reported stolen were found on the back of a flatbed truck. He was bailed pending further inquiries.
The raids were carried out with the support of agencies including British Transport Police, CE Electric, BT Openreach, Virgin Media and Network Rail.
Chief Supertintendent Stewart Swinson, head of crime for Cleveland Police, said: “This operation was extremely successful, and we hope that subsequent operations will bring similar results and act as a warning to anyone who thinks that they can act outside of the law.”
People can report any suspicious activity to Cleveland Police on (01642) 326326 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.