WEST MILFORD, N.J. – A Bergen County man stole dozens of backup batteries from cellphone towers – including a batch from a West Milford firehouse, authorities said.
Christopher Kennedy, 31, of Rutherford stole roughly $11,000 worth of batteries in three separate incidents in the township, police there said Tuesday.
The first theft was discovered in early June at a tower near Canistear Road and Route 23, Police Chief Timothy Storbeck said.
Another was discovered at the Lakeland Plaza in Newfoundland late in the month but could have occurred as early as February, the chief said.
A third theft, which occurred sometime during the summer, was discovered earlier this month at the Macopin Firehouse, he said.
Teaneck police arrested Kennedy for a similar crime on July 27. A judge less than 24 hours later ordered him released under New Jersey’s 2017 Bail Reform & Speedy Trial Act, records show.
A few days later, Kennedy was driving a green Ford Explorer when he stole 16 batteries from a cellphone tower in Newark’s Ironbound section, police there said.
Copper theft has been more common for a much longer time, but backup cell tower batteries – used by the carriers during power outages -- aren’t exactly new targets.
Thefts have been reported in Pennsylvania, Texas and California, among other states.
Bought as scrap at anywhere from a quarter to a dollar per pound -- for the lead inside the batteries -- it can produce a few thousand in quick cash for thieves, authorities say.
Earlier this year, a Mahwah police detective cracked the theft of more than a ton and a half of backup batteries from cell towers in town with the arrest of a Wood-Ridge ex-con with a long criminal history.
In the West Milford case, township detectives charged Kennedy with three counts each of theft and possession of burglary tools and two of criminal mischief.
Newark police charged him with theft the next day.
Finding him was easy: Kennedy remained held in the Essex lockup Tuesday after being arrested on other charges a week earlier.
A Passaic County judge placed several detainers on Kennedy, who also was wanted for skipping court in Bergen County. An Essex judge ordered that he remain in custody.
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