UNIONTOWN (KDKA) – Greed is causing a lot of problems for residents and business owners in Fayette County, and now state police say the issue has become a matter of public safety.

Verizon is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for cutting phone lines to get to the copper wire inside them.

So far, more than 17,000 feet of copper has been stolen since April. Officials say there have been 35 thefts in all in Masontown, New Salem, Uniontown and several other areas in Fayette County.

Verizon says the thefts have cost the company about $300,000 in damages and repairs, but adds that their customers have been hurt more.

Just ask the shop owners at Nickman’s Plaza in Lemont Furnace. This is the second time in as many weeks that they have lost phone service because of the thefts.

“It took two to three times as long to fill a prescription,” said Linda Rennie of Nickman’s Drug. “We had no fax service, which means the doctors could not fax prescriptions in to us and we could not fax prescriptions out to them; so, it was very costly to our business. We lost a lot of business.”

In fact, all of the stores in Nickman’s Plaza, about a dozen of them, were forced to operate without phone service.

State police say their concern is for residents who can’t dial 911 from their homes because phone service has been knocked out because of thieves.

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