Criminals caused thousands of pounds in damage during an elaborate theft of copper cable which is believed to have taken several hours.
Council officials in Hartlepool are appealing for information after the thieves targeted a new street lighting scheme on the Headland.
The thieves stole a 450ft-long stretch of copper cable from the town’s Old Cemetery Road sometime between Friday, July 8, and Monday, July 11.
Council bosses say the thieves first broke into a control box before they isolated the power and cut the buried cable.
They then dragged the cable out of the ground.
Local authority chiefs say the thieves caused £5,000 worth of damage.
The lights had onlt been operating for around two months following a £40,000 scheme of improvements in the area.
Council chiefs say the thieves have risked their lives by targeting the 415-volt network and appealed for anyone with information to contact the council or ring the police.
Rob Daley, Hartlepool Borough Council’s public lighting officer, said: “The thieves must have had some kind of equipment or a wagon to actually wrench the cable from the ground.
“They wouldn’t have been able to do this quickly and I reckon they will have been at the scene for a couple of hours.
“I’m hoping that someone will recall seeing them and be able to provide us or the police with useful information.
“Perhaps someone has tried to sell copper cable at a scrap yard in the town and, again, we would welcome any information.”
Ten LED streetlights - part of a 27-light scheme in Old Cemetery Road that cost £40,000 – were put out of action by the cable theft.
The lights had only been up and running for around two months.
Mr Daley said the thieves had put themselves at risk of serious injury or even death by tampering with the electrics and the 415-volt cable.
He has asked for residents who ever see any suspicious activity such as this to contact them or phone the police.
He added: “It is so disappointing that the council’s efforts to improve street lighting in this area of the town should be undermined in this way.
“Although this area is quite isolated, we would urge residents who live nearby, dog walkers and joggers to act as our eyes and ears and to always report any suspicious activity.”
Anyone with information about the theft can contact Rob on (01429) 523593 or Cleveland Police on 101.
They could also ring Crimestoppeers on 0800 555111.