AT&T Offers $250,000 Reward for Fiber Vandalism

AT&T offered $250,000 reward in fiber optic case

By Lisa Fernandez and Kris Sanchez
|  Thursday, Apr 18, 2013  |  Updated 7:01 AM PDT
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About 10,000 gallons of oil leaked Tuesday morning from a transformer at a San Jose PG&E substation, which authorities said was vandalized, most likely damaged by gunfire. At about the same time, and not too far away, Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments reported that 911 calls from land lines were not working early Tuesday morning because of cut lines. Arturo Santiago reports on how the two were connected

About 10,000 gallons of oil leaked Tuesday morning from a transformer at a San Jose PG&E substation, which authorities said was vandalized, most likely damaged by gunfire. At about the same time, and not too far away, Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments reported that 911 calls from land lines were not working early Tuesday morning because of cut lines. Arturo Santiago reports on how the two were connected

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Phone service was restored in the South Bay Wednesday after being  disrupted Tuesday when vandals cut underground fiber optic cables south of  San Jose.

It was one of two cases of apparent sabotage, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

A transformer at a San Jose PG&E substation was also vandalized, most likely damaged by gunfire.

Sheriff Laurie Smith said both were apparent acts of "sabotage."

The vandal's objective appears to have been "shutting down the system," Smith said at a news conference at the substation Tuesday afternoon. "We don't have a suspect," she said. "It seems like the same perpetrator or perpetrators to me." Both incidents happened early this morning in the area of Metcalf Road and Monterey Highway, just southeast of San Jose city limits.

The substation damage prompted the California Independent Service Operator to issue a "Flex Alert" Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. because of the heavy damage at the substation on Metcalf Road.

The agency asked everyone in Northern California, but especially in Silicon Valley, to conserve energy as crews worked to fix the substation's damaged equipment. Power was rerouted as the work is being done.

PG&E spokesman JD Guidi said "it does appear that there were gunshots to our facility." In addition to the leak, at least five transformers were damaged.

The gunshots were reported at 1:46 a.m. near Monterey and Blanchard roads.

911 Calls Down From Land Lines in South Santa Clara County

Two hours after the gunfire was reported, PG&E called the sheriff's office to report that their security fence had been "breached" in the 100 block of Metcalf Road near U.S. Highway 101, according to Santa Clara County Sheriff's Det. Kurtis Stenderup.

At about the same time, and not too far away, Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments reported that 911 calls from land lines were not working early Tuesday morning because of cut lines.

Before noon, AT&T spokesman George Ross told NBC Bay Area that crews had rerouted the lines so that 911 service was restored. AT&T provides the service to the Gilroy Police Department.

Still, AT&T said there may be some customers in the San Jose area experiencing issues with wireless phones because of the cut cable, and Ross said that technicians were working around the clock to fix the damage.

San Jose resident Leilani Zamora had no internet service. Her cell phone did not work. When she tried to make a call, she was met with this message: "Mobile network not available."
 
"Freaks me out. It's something that I would think that people would have access to," Zamora said.

Since she did not have cell phone service, she also didn't have access to 911, even though the system was up and running.

"Then what happens in case of emergency. There's nobody there to respond. That's terrifying to know that especially considering the fact what happened yesterday. People trying to get a hold of their families," Zamora said.
 

In Morgan Hill, city spokeswoman Maureen Tobin said that landlines were still not working as of 12:30 p.m., but calls to the 911 dispatch were coming in - she advised residents use cell phones instread. If that doesn't work, she said, residents should go to the nearest fire station for help.

The phone line and substation incidents occurred within a half-mile radius of each other, Sheriff Smith said. She said that although the timing and geography suggest the attacks are related, it is still possible that they were perpetrated by different people. "It's going to be a difficult investigation," she said. Smith said, however, that it is clear both acts were intentional. "So if you want to call that sabotage, that's what it looks like," she said.

AT&T Offers $250K Reward

AT&T late Tuesday announced it was offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the act of vandalism to its network in San Jose.

The reward release noted that following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, AT&T’s networks were declared National Critical Infrastructures in recognition of their importance to the nation’s security.

Anyone who tampers with, destroys or disrupts the company’s network or its components is in violation of federal and state laws, according to AT&T.  AT&T said it is assisting law enforcement to identify and prosecute those responsible. According to AT&T, the vandalism happened in the early morning hours of April 16 and involved cuts of fiber optic cables in a manhole in San Jose.

Bay City News contributed to this report. 

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