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Police catch 911 backup battery bandits

Posted at 2:34 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 17:56:37-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Eleven men are facing charges after police ended a string of emergency service battery thefts that began in 2017.

Thieves stole more than $1 million worth of Comcast alpha-cell batteries that provide backup power for cable, broadband and 911 phone service during power outages.

Each battery was valued at approximately $180 and could be sold for scrap metal, netting thieves a $15-$20 profit according to police.

The batteries were housed in steel security boxes but thieves were able to break in and cut wires to remove the batteries in just minutes.

According to police, the quick thefts made it difficult to identify suspects until July 31, 2018, when a Holladay resident got a photo of a suspect breaking into a utility box and a photo of the suspect’s vehicle.

Comcast then put multiple bait batteries across the Wasatch Front to alert the company when a battery was being removed that helped police connect those thefts with suspects and vehicles.

Tracking batteries also helped locate where the batteries were being sold and resulted in the recovery of some of the stolen batteries, along with receipts for selling some of the batteries with the names of suspects in the case.

According to police, thefts occurred in Davis, Salt Lake and Summit counties.