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Move Over Copper; Cell Tower Batteries are the Hot Item Now

By J. Sharpe Smith —

June 4, 2015 — Copper thefts at cell towers have been a common occurrence over the years. A new trend in larceny may be developing: the theft of cell tower batteries from base stations. While not being as big a problem as copper theft, stealing cell tower batteries is both needless overhead for carriers and the possible cause of downtime for cell service.

In perhaps the biggest story as of late, authorities caught a man on May 21 in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania, who is suspected of stealing more than 4,000 cell tower batteries from more than 500 towers in four states in the northeast, according to a report on 6ABC Action News. The suspect was a tower technician subcontracted by Sprint and Verizon. The stolen batteries were sold to Green Dog Recycling in Philadelphia for $30 apiece, totaling $122,000.

Yesterday, T-Mobile reported four deep cycle batteries stolen from a cell tower in Salisbury, North Carolina, according to the Salisbury Post. Officials valued the batteries at $1,138. About seven days ago, AT&T reported batteries stolen from three different cell towers in the same area.

An unidentified cellular carrier reported the theft of $5,500.00 worth of batteries from a cell tower on May 28 in Yardley, Pennsylvania, according to the Lower Makefield Township Police Department.

On May 7 and May 8, thieves hit three Ericsson towers in Manalapan Township, New Jersey, taking $2,700 worth of batteries and copper wiring from one and $3,300 worth of batteries and copper from another, according to the News Transcript.

AT&T reported thousands of dollars’ worth of batteries stolen from three sites in Lincoln County,
North Carolina N.C., around May 3, according to the Charlotte Observer. One man has been arrested and charged in the matter.

The theft of 16 to 20 batteries from a cell tower in Radnor, Pennsylvania, worth $4,000 was reported to police April 28. But they may have been taken any time since July 2014, according the Mainline Media News.

Thieves in Upper Macungie Township, Pennsylvania stole 16 batteries from a Sprint tower on April 8, according to a Lehigh Valley Live, and walked away with 40 batteries from Sprint towers in Lower Macungie Township on March 22.

These battery heists may be the result of increased use of backup batteries at cell towers in storm-prone areas. Perhaps years of attempts to reduce copper theft are having some effect and thieves are switching to stealing batteries. It is hard to say. We will be keeping an eye out for reports of future cell tower battery thefts.