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Cable thieves get chance to avoid charges, fines

BROOKHAVEN — People receiving cable television illegally inLincoln County are being offered a chance to disconnect and notface the consequences.

During a news conference Monday, Cable One representativesannounced a “No questions asked amnesty campaign” to stop the theftof cable television service.

From May 1-30, the cable company is allowing unauthorizedviewers to come forward without facing criminal charges. They canturn themselves in or someone may anonymously report them bycalling Cable One at 833-7991 or going to www.Cabletheft.com.

“People sometimes don’t look at (it) as stealing, but it is.It’s no different than walking in and taking money out of our cashdrawer,” said General Manager Bobby McCool.

People who don’t turn themselves in can face a $1,000 fine andup to one year of prison time for the first offense or a fine notto exceed $50,000 and a prison term not to exceed 10 years for thesecond offense, said McCool.

Cable theft occurs between the cable system and the home byconnecting an illegal drop to the plant, tampering with a converterbox, or failure of previous tenants to return equipment, companyofficials said.

Beginning May 30, Cable One representatives will begin crackingdown on cable theft with the help of a special device. All CableOne service men have been given an illegal cable detector that canpinpoint a loose or cut wire.

“Depending on the setting I have it on, I can pick it up severalblocks away,” said senior technician Robert Hopkins about the smallblack box that beeps when an illegal signal is detected.

McCool pointed out that the device has proved successful before,and it will be used in a June door-to-door audit.

“With the house-to-house audit starting soon, it is only amatter of time before we find the individuals receivingunauthorized services,” said McCool. “We hope that everyone willtake advantage of the amnesty period during the month of May.”

However, individuals found stealing service after the end of theamnesty period will be prosecuted to the fullest extent with thehelp of local law enforcement officers.

“I can assure you, you have our support,” Brookhaven PoliceChief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson told cable officials at the pressconference.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Pepper and Chancery ClerkTillmon Bishop were also on hand to show their support for theamnesty campaign.

“I’m so thankful that we have a community that will support usin this effort,” said McCool.

McCool explained how the cable industry loses about $6.6 billiona year nationally in basic and premium revenues due to cable theft.Cable One in Brookhaven estimates that $137,000 is lost annually inthe area.

“We’re losing tax dollars, which affects the city, county andstate,” said McCool, referring to sales tax and franchise fees thatcontribute to the local economy.