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Thieves Target North Jersey Cell Towers, Sell Batteries As Scrap Metal

MAHWAH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Thieves in New Jersey have been tampering with cell towers, and police say it could cause a dangerous and major communication blackout.

We are a nation reliant upon cellphones, they're never too far away.

Arjan Gazaferi told CBS2's Meg Baker that he's attached to his.

"Every day, every minute," he said.

If he found himself without service.

"I'd have a heart attack," he said.

It could happen in an emergency.

Mahwah police said thieves are targeting two cell phone towers in town, and stealing batteries to sell for scrap metal.

Cops have seized more than 60 of the batteries worth more than $10,000.

"At the base of the poles are bunker boxes where they store batteries, and in the event of a power failure the batteries provide service until power restores," Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said.

Batelli said it's a threat to public safety, especially in more remote areas with fewer towers.

"If there were a power failure and there weren't any batteries, their cell service could be interrupted for an extended period of time," he said.

A total communication blackout.

Dave Stein was visiting Mahwah and said he doesn't even have a landline anymore.

"I don't, this is it," he said holding up his phone.

If he found himself without power, like during Superstorm Sandy.

"If I did have to use my cellphone and I couldn't make contact that would be a problem," he said.

In Clifton, there have been four thefts, including once last week from the tower near Routes 21 and 3.

Verizon told police it plans to upgrade alarm systems and other security at the sites so thieves can longer bypass it.

Mahwah Police were able to lift a finger print from one of the sites and identified a suspect -- a 36-year-old Woodridge man.

Mahwah detectives also canvassed scrap metal dealers in Stony Point, West Haverstraw, and Nanuet, New York as well as Paterson and Wallington.

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