$250K Reward Out for Vandals Who Cut AT&T Lines

Local emergency declared during outage

AT&T is now offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the  arrest of whoever is responsible for severing lines fiber optic cables in San Jose tha left much of the area without phone or cell service Thursday.

John Britton of AT&T said the reward is the largest ever offered by the company.

Police are investigating four severed fiber optic cables in San Jose that left tens of thousands of area residents without phone service Thursday and prompted the mobilization of Santa Clara County emergency  communication systems.

Additionally, San Carlos police reported another case of  severed fiber optic lines, although no phone disruptions were in connection with that incident.

 A Gilroy spokesman says a woman was forced to flee her home during a robbery because she couldn't call 911. She rushed to a nearby firehouse to report the crime.

The county of Santa Clara declared a state of local emergency late Thursday.  The official declaration will allow Santa Clara County to potentially recoup some of the costs of maintaining public safety while the 911 system was down, county spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said.

San Carlos police Cmdr. Richard Cinfio said he and other officers  responded to alarms around 3 a.m. and found two severed fiber optic cables at  an underground site at Old County Road and Bing Street.

"The suspect or suspects would have needed to go down a few  manhole covers in order to damage these cables," he said.

San Carlos police are asking anyone with information regarding  this case to call a specially activated phone line at 650-82-4423.

Santa Clara County  emergency communication systems were mobilized and San Jose police are  investigating the severed fiber optic cables.
"It's pretty clear someone cut the four fiber optic cables," AT&T  spokesman John Britton said as he watched crews make repairs. Usually such  cuts happen by accident during construction, utility repair or other projects  that require digging, he said. Britton said no such projects are scheduled in  the area.

AT&T hoped to have phone and Internet restored by 6 p.m. Each of  the four cables contains dozens of smaller lines, Britton said, so service  will be restored to different areas throughout the day.

The cut lines triggered AT&T alarms around 2:30 a.m. Britton said.  The outage has affected the towns of Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin, he  said. AT&T, police and county officials have reports of additional outages in  San Jose's Coyote neighborhood, parts of Santa Cruz County as far south as  Aptos, and pockets of San Benito County.

Police are now officially treating the cut cables as a vandalism  case, and consider the repair site in south San Jose a crime scene.

Vandalism can be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the  amount of damage. Further charges relating to disrupting phone lines could be  possible depending on how the case proceeds, Lopez said. A suspect and motive  were not immediately available.

A fleet of police and repair vehicles spent the Thursday at  the site on Monterey Highway just north of Blossom Hill Road. Around 11 a.m.,  workers erected a small tent over the manhole to continue repairs.

Lopez said cutting the cables required removing a heavy manhole  cover, perhaps with a tool, and climbing more than eight feet underground. He  declined to give specifics, for fear of triggering copycat acts.

The nearby IBM corporate offices were also affected, Lopez said,  and managers sent some employees home.

In addition to AT&T customers, the outage affected 52,200  Verizon land line customers, according to Santa Clara County's emergency  response team. Some areas were able to make local calls, but couldn't access  911.

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