ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Copper thieves in Northern New Mexico knocked a out phone line to homes and businesses and sent emergency dispatch departments scrambling. Espanola Police Chief Mizel Garcia said someone cut off five to six feet of copper wire on the Santa Clara Pueblo – wire that was critical to providing phone service in surrounding areas.

This incident took place early Friday afternoon, Apr. 28. It left many homes and businesses, both on the Pueblo and in western Espanola, without landline service. “That incident also took down our 911 dispatch center which is located on the western side of Espanola of the city,” said Garcia.

Emergency dispatch was back up by the end of the weekend. This isn’t the first time someone has cut telephone wires; Chief Garcia says it has happened three times in a little more than a year.

“All 911 calls went through the Los Alamos dispatch and then they were rerouted back into our dispatch center,” said Garcia. “We have a backup phone system so we were utilizing that backup phone system through Los Alamos to assist us.”

The department also had extra officers on the west side and assistance from other agencies. On any given day, Espanola police receive 115 emergency calls and close to 400 non-emergency calls.

“We alert New Mexico State Police, we alert our county sheriff, our Santa Clara Tribal Police partners, and just to the north, our Ohkay Owingeh Tribal Police partners and we all work together,” said Garcia.

Meanwhile, Chief Garcia says they are taking extra measures to prevent this from happening again. “We’ve realized now a better surveillance system, potentially putting up more fences being able to better protect those wires,” said Garcia.

Since this happened on tribal land, anyone arrested regarding the incident will face federal charges for interfering with communication.