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Vandals cut fiber optic cable lines, disrupt 911 calls
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The 911 emergency network system was disrupted in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced and Tuolumne counties late Tuesday night when fiber optic cables were cut on McKinley Avenue a half mile north of French Camp Road.

It was only one such attack on phone cables in the region during the past year.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T service was impacted by the “vandalism” that alerted crews immediately to the problem and its location.  Repair work continued on replacing the cut fiber optic lines throughout the day. Three repair crews were on the roadside of McKinley Avenue working underground.  Cut cables were visible on the railroad right-of way where they had apparently been left behind by vandals.

 “We are investigating Tuesday evening’s vandalism in the Stockton area and cooperating with the local law enforcement to find those responsible,” said Matthew Cross, representing AT&T Northern California. “That damage is affecting wireless, wireline, U-verse and emergency 911 services for some of our customers.  Technicians are working diligently to repair the damage and restore service.  Vandalism is a serious matter that affects public safety and the community at large.”

The AT&T spokesman had no reports of any injuries or deaths associated with the lack of the 911 network that could have prevented fire, ambulance and police from responding to a life-threatening emergency call for help such as a heart attack or stroke.

Deputy Dave Konecny confirmed that the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the incident. The vandalism also impacted the sheriff’s department.  

Industrial locations near the French Camp Road vandalism were also affected as were cities of Modesto, Ceres, Tracy, Mountain House, Vernalis, Waterford and the County of Merced with some problems reaching farther into the San Joaquin Valley and up into the Mother Lode.

Turlock Police spokesperson Sgt. Stephen Webb, said the Turlock department experienced no troubles making and receiving calls and as of Wednesday afternoon, he had received no complaints from local residents trying to make an emergency call.

Emergency calls made through 911 in Turlock are routed through the California Highway Patrol Merced office, which reported having to reroute some calls through other offices.

Law enforcement officials said there was no evidence of wire theft beyond vandalism. AT&T officials had no estimate of how many of their customers had been touched by the outage as they worked with Verizon technicians to repair the problem.

An AT&T spokesman confirmed another vandalism attack had occurred in the first week of July.  It was far less serious than Tuesday’s incident, he said. Federal officials have reported more than a dozen cuts in fiber-optic networks in the Bay Area alone within the last year with the FBI being called in to investigate.  The latest Bay Area incident was on June 30 when vandals cut lines by accessing a manhole in Alameda County disrupting communications west of the Altamont.  Similar attacks were reported in the Sacramento and Rocklin areas that disrupted contacts with emergency services.