Chainsaw-wielding thieves are risking death by chopping through power poles in order to steal valuable metals at electricity transformers, it emerged today.
Thousands were left without power when wooden poles were sliced through in Bloxwich in "spectacularly dangerous" attacks by vandals trying to steal copper cables and other equipment.
Central Networks said than 4,600 customers were left without power yesterday when a wooden pole which stood in land off Glastonbury Crescent, Bloxwich, was chopped down.
Central Networks said it believed the thieves were trying trip the power by "isolating" part of the network in the mistaken belief that they could then steal metal from a nearby transformer.
Customers in Wednesfield, Essington, and Bloxwich were without power after the 1pm attack. Most customers were back on line by 2pm.
On July 7, a power pole was left balancing on its stump after being cut in Fishley Lane, Bloxwich.
Police are investigating the attacks, along with two others elsewhere in the Midlands.
Central Networks operations manager Phil Wilson said today: "These are spectacularly dangerous attacks that could have left the thieves either dead or with horrendous injuries.
"Cutting down power poles and stealing power lines really is gambling with your life.
"It's alarming that thieves are willing to take such big risks for metal which is worth just a few pounds.
"In addition, they leave behind a potentially dangerous situation which our engineers have to make safe and then carry out repairs, so people can get the power back on in their homes and businesses."
It is the latest trend in metal thefts, which have been fuelled by scrap prices and which have seen doorknobs, pensioners' bungalows, community centres and rail lines all targeted for lead, copper and steel.
In parts of the Black Country, gangs have stolen old cars specifically for their scrap metal value.
West Midlands Police have called for a change in the law that would force scrap dealers to take full details of people who approach them trying to sell metal.