GARY, Ind. (CBS) – Thieves have climbed utility poles and cut live electrical wires in order to steal some 600 pounds of copper.

Copper has always been a target of theft but utility officials in Gary say thieves are now climbing to a new level to score the hot commodity. So far, thieves have hit 15 locations since Sunday, and now the Northern Indiana Public Service Company is asking for help to catch the culprits.

NIPSCO says the thefts are dangerous and also an inconvenience to residents in the area because their service is interrupted. 

Carl Hutchinson says his wife’s health was jeopardized early this week when a thief hit their lifeline to power. She is on oxygen 24 hours a day with two daily breathing treatments, and both machines require power. 

Carl says NIPSCO reacted fast to his emergency call to restore his power but believes this is an inside job, or maybe someone who previously worked for the utility, “who knows how to go up that pole and clip those wires without getting burned up.”

Copper is worth about $4 a pound and there has been an estimated 600 pounds stolen. This leaves NIPSCO out about $2,400. Police officials are asking scrap yards and pawn shops to notify them of any large copper sales.

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