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Two men caught allegedly stealing copper in Watertown high voltage utility site

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State police said two men broke into National Grid’s Coffeen Street substation, near the entrance to Salmon Run Mall Road, early Tuesday in an attempt to steal copper ground rods and wiring.

The two were apprehended after an internal alert system at a National Grid facility was activated about 1:20 a.m., according to state police. The company notified Jefferson County emergency dispatch and sent employees to the scene, where the suspects ran to a car and drove off. Troopers halted the vehicle shortly after 2 a.m. on County Route 200 in the town of Watertown.

John T. Milazzo, 23, of 711 Cadwell St., and Miles J. Matthews, 26, Fort Drum, are charged with third-degree criminal trespass, fourth-degree criminal mischief and petit larceny. Both were released, with Mr. Matthews being turned over to Fort Drum authorities, to await their arraignments in town of Watertown Court.

Police said bolt cutters were used to break through the fence that secures the power station. The first responders to the scene found the cutters and a hole in the fence, police said.

No power disruptions were caused, they said.

A National Grid spokeswoman, Virginia J. Limmiatis, said the intruders risked electrocution and death.

The company announced in October 2011, after experiencing a rash of similar incidents, that it was installing closed-circuit television, substation access control and guard services to combat the problem. Efforts also were made to use or develop substitutes for copper, which is a popular target for thieves with its rising value.

Mr. Milazzo also has prosecution pending on a first-degree burglary charge lodged by Watertown police in an incident Jan. 26, when a woman’s apartment was entered in the 500 block of Arsenal Street.

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