A Cliffwood Beach man was arrested Monday on charges that he stole copper wire from the JCP&L substation on Wilson Avenue in Matawan on four separate occasions. Two of the alleged incidents occurred during the power outages following Sandy.
Police say that John Wesp, 30, of Raritan Boulevard, entered the substation on Oct. 16, Oct. 25., Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 by cutting a hole in the fence surrounding the property. He allegedly removed over sixty copper stabilizing wires that help ground the electrical poles at the substation, Lt. Ben Smith explained. Each section is estimated to be about eight feet long.
According to Smith, JCP&L estimated that about $80,000 worth of damage was done to the substation.
After the two October incidents, Det. Joseph Lovallo and Det. Steve Sakowski installed a camera at the substation. However, during the power outages that followed Sandy, the camera was rendered useless.
On Nov. 4, while power was still out in the area, police responded to an alarm at the substation, Smith said. When officers arrived on the scene, a man fled on foot, leaving his vehicle behind.
The Matawan Police Department, with assistance from the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office K-9 unit, the Aberdeen Police Department and the Old Bridge Police Department, conducted a search of the area but was unable to locate the suspect.
According to Smith, detectives were able to identify Wesp as their suspect using the vehicle abandoned at the scene.
"When JCP&L was trying to help us get the power back on, he was robbing them," said Smith.
Wesp was arrested by Det. Lovallo on Dec. 3. He is charged with one count each of burglary, theft, and criminal mischief. Additional charges are pending, Smith said.
Bail was set at $15,000.