Thieves target cell phone tower batteries - CBS46 News

Thieves target cell phone tower batteries

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In the event of an emergency, cell phone towers are equipped with backup batteries so the public can keep making cellular calls. Senoia police said if they hadn't caught two thieves, hundreds of thousands of cell phone users may have been left with no service.

"It is very detrimental in the interest of public safety," Lt. Jason Ercole with the Senoia Police Department said. "If the backup batteries were missing and the power had gone out, carriers of that equipment would not have been able to use their phones."

Ercole said one of Senoia's cell phone towers was hit on Dec. 4, in that time, the case went cold. In February, two men were arrested by the Newton County Sheriff's Office. Those arrests led to a major break in Ercole's case.

"I was able to track their movements to Direct Metals Recycling in Conley," Ercole said. "We have surveillance video of the men selling cell phone tower batteries for scrap."

The men were identified as James Andrew Crawford and Ronald Jason Grantham. Ercole said an alarm sounded at a cell phone tower in Newton County and deputies were able to catch the duo in the act of stealing the batteries.

"The deputy in Newton County did a really good job of catching these guys," Ercole said. "Without the help of Newnan police, and Newton County this case may have gone unsolved."

Ercole said an investigator with AT&T estimated the batteries to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ercole said 44,000 pounds of batteries were recycled. That adds up to roughly 500 total batteries. Ercole said the men were paid more than $14,000 by the recycle company.

Crawford and Grantham were employees of an outside company that serviced cell phone tower batteries. Ercole said he knew it had to be an inside job when there were no signs of forced entry on the battery terminal locks or the gates to gain access to the cell phone towers.

"I can't believe that these two suspects wouldn't think eventually they wouldn't be caught, with 44,000 pounds of batteries, in such a short period of time it is outrageous," Ercole said.

Ercole said the men may be connected to at least 10 more backup battery thefts across the state.

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