THIEVES who target overhead power cables and sub-stations are being warned that they are risking their lives — and putting neighbours in danger.

Around 7,000 metres of electricity lines have been stolen across the Ribble Valley and Pendle in recent weeks.

Villagers in Chatburn, Billington, Ribchester, Bashall Eaves and Chaigley have lost power in a number of attacks — in one incident a mile’s worth of cabling was taken in Roughlee.

Patrols have been stepped up in rural locations across East Lancashire — and police are urging householders to be vigilant in remote areas.

Supporters of Farm Watch schemes are being asked to play their part and report any unusual activity — especially in the early hours.

Sgt Mick Dixon said: “By cutting into copper wiring, thieves are not only putting themselves at risk but they are risking the lives of the residents whose homes are connected to the power supply.

“Any residents who see wiring on the floor in open fields should not go near it but contact police and Electricity North West who operate the local network.”

Low-voltage supplies across wooden electricity poles have mainly been targeted and thieves have been known to pose as workmen, wearing high-visibility jackets.

Jane Fleetwood, response manager for Electricity North West, said the company’s call centre operated 24-hours a day and staff could confirm if work had been scheduled in a particular area.

“Not only do these thefts cause safety issues but they also cause significant inconvenience to people, and repairs can cost thousands more than the value of the metal taken.”

One Burnley thief, earlier this year, also risked a 5,000 volt shock, when he tried to steal cabling from a sub-station — and left 200 homes without power.

People with concerns or information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.