Electricity vandals are warned they could be killed

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Police have stepped up their patrols after vandals diced with death by setting two electricity poles alight and throwing a metal pole over a live line near Haywards Heath.

UK Power Networks says those messing around with its network could be killed, even without contacting the equipment, because electricity can jump gaps.

Staff were called out to the East Mascalls Lane area near Lindfield a week last Saturday after a power cut. Nearby they discovered a wooden pole carrying 11,000 volt cables had been set alight and a metal pipe had been thrown across overhead electricity lines, cutting off supplies.

More than 500 customers in the Lewes Road, Scaynes Hill Road and Orchard Close areas lost electricity. There was a further incident a week last Monday when a second pole was set on fire off Brooklands, Haywards Heath, cutting off 704 supplies.

There were similar incidents in the same area in June when iron bars were thrown over overhead power lines. At Ditchling in April, vandals set light to the base of electricity poles, causing power cuts affecting hundreds of homes.

Colin Barden, Head of Network Operations in the South East, said: “Our message is loud and clear: anyone fooling around with electricity could end up paying a very high price.

“Electricity is very useful but it is also incredibly powerful and must be treated with respect to stay safe. It can jump gaps so even if they didn’t contact the power line they could be killed.”

Inspector Paul Tomlinson, from Sussex Police, said: “Aside from the criminal aspect of these incidents, these actions are incredibly reckless and irresponsible and there’s no doubt that they could prove fatal to the offenders or an innocent party.

“We are working closely with UK Power Networks to find those responsible and help prevent further incidents. If you see anything suspicious around installations of this type, dial 999 right away.”

The company urges people to report any suspicious activity to police and UK Power Networks by calling: 0800 587 3243. Patrols have been stepped up where the latest incident took place.