Police are looking for culprits in the theft of 40 feet of telecommunications cable near Emigrant Lake that left 300 CenturyLink customers without telephone service for eight hours on Saturday.

Police are looking for culprits in the theft of 40 feet of telecommunications cable near Emigrant Lake that left 300 CenturyLink customers without telephone service for eight hours on Saturday.

The theft occurred Saturday morning and was reported to CenturyLink officials at 9:30 a.m. CenturyLink spokesman Keith Burden said telephone service was restored by 5:30 p.m. after company officials repaired the damaged line. Internet service was not affected by the theft.

Burden said similar thefts of the copper cables are on the rise. Individuals typically take the stolen goods to scrap yards and sell them. Car batteries are stolen from vehicles with the same purpose.

"We have (copper thefts) all over throughout our markets," Burden said. "It has happened with increased frequency. We believe obviously the economy has something to do with that."

It's a dangerous way to make a buck, Burden added, with risks including multiple-story falls or electrocution.

"Whether they're digging or going up a pole, it's very dangerous," he said.

The current resale value of copper is anywhere from 50 cents to $1.45 per pound, depending on the wire's thickness. It's a popular metal among scrap retailers, who say the demand for it has always held steady.

"Copper wire is always coming in," said Lonny Rosecrans, White City Metals sales representative, adding that copper values are currently considered high. "The volume's always fairly high. The price fluctuates, of course."

Oregon state law requires scrap yards to keep records of each scrap transaction and keep each transaction on file for a year.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office said the case is still under investigation. Sheriff's office officials said metal thefts have been more frequent in recent months, especially copper and steel because of their value.

"In the last little bit we've seen a couple cases that were very similar," said sheriff's office spokeswoman Andrea Carlson. "It is something that we are aware of and that we have seen increase."

CenturyLink is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests of the individuals responsible for the theft.

Anyone with information about the theft should call the sheriff's office at 541-774-6800.

Those charged with the crime can be charged with first-degree theft and criminal mischief, which can result in jail time and fines.

CenturyLink, based in Monroe, La., is the third-largest telecommunication company in the U.S., and is listed as an S&P 500 company. In April of 2011. CenturyLink acquired Qwest, the former local telephone service provider for most of Oregon and 14 western states.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com