WATERVILLE — While residents in the Gilman and Morrill streets area slept early Tuesday, two men cut copper wire from utility poles near their homes, according to police.

The men stole about 40 pounds of copper wire from at least 45 poles, said police Chief Joseph Massey.

Police arrested Timothy Sean Hill, 23, of Alabama, in the thefts and are searching for the second man involved. Hill was charged with receiving stolen property and criminal trespass and was taken early Tuesday to Kennebec County jail in Augusta. Bail was set at $100 for each charge.

Sgt. Dan Ames said Hill came to Maine from Alabama about two months ago and was visiting people in Clinton.

Police pursued Hill and the other man in the woods behind Morrill Avenue before arresting Hill.

Police got a call at 3:45 a.m. from a Morrill Avenue resident who said people were talking in the nearby woods and carrying flashlights, according to Ames.

Officers Robert Bouley and Josh Woods went to the area and followed footprints in the grass that lead to the woods. Bouley saw two people hunkered down near railroad tracks and called out to them, and they dropped what turned out to be a large amount of copper wire, Ames said.

Bouley found a mound of wire and a backpack full of it, Ames said. Bouley, who has worked on cases involving copper wire thefts, recognized it had come from utility poles. Massey said the wires is grounding wire, used in case of lightning strikes.

Waterville police requested help from Winslow police, and Winslow Officer Haley Fleming helped search the area.

Ames was at the end of Morrill Avenue when officers in the woods radioed to tell him they could hear people moving through the woods.

“He (the suspect) saw me, veered away and started running,” Ames said. “I pursued him, he slipped, and I was able to take him into custody.”

By then it was 4:50 a.m. Police couldn’t catch the second man, whom Hill would not identify, according to Massey and Ames. Police are searching for the second man, and the case is under investigation.

Detective Sgt. Michael Benecke took over the case later Tuesday, Massey said.

Police found wire had been taken from 45 utility poles, he said. Massey said the poles are on Pleasant, Dalton, Nudd, Burleigh and Gilman streets, as well as Western Avenue.

“Inside the bag was a hacksaw that we suspect was used to cut the wire,” he said.

Massey said copper wire is selling at scrap yards for $3 a pound, but the amount of damage done to the poles is in the thousands of dollars.

He said that copper thefts are becoming an epidemic, both locally and around the country. He is seeking legislation that he hopes will help curb wire theft and aid in catching thieves.

Police ask that anyone with information about the thefts call 680-4700.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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