Subway copper thief’s release has MTA on high alert

NY Post

This thief has some mettle.

Prince Hayes has been ripping off copper wiring from the New York City subway system for more than a decade — a crime that has resulted in dozens of train delays and a vast amount of money in repairs.

Armed with pliers and a hacksaw, the daring crook deftly cuts and removes portions of the thick copper cable in the subway tunnels, part of the power circuits streaming hundreds of volts of electricity.

Hayes, 56, is so adept at cutting the wires that he does so while trains are rushing by at breakneck speeds. Cutting the wrong section of the heavy cable could result in electrocution and death.

The Brooklyn-based menace sells the copper parts at scrapyards in the borough for up to $5 a pound. The cash could be feeding a drug habit, sources said, pointing to several past drug-possession charges.

His crimes can cause subway mayhem, and even risk straphangers’ lives.

When Hayes goes in for the theft, the damaged cable can trip the emergency brakes on a train. MTA crews are then sent in to investigate the stopped train, causing massive delays down the line.

In one instance, Hayes’ copper thefts caused an explosion in a subway tunnel, authorities said. On another occasion, his handiwork caused the MTA to suspend service on one subway line and re-route trains on three different lines.

Hayes has a rap sheet of 49 arrests that goes back to 1989. He was sentenced in 2016 to two years in jail for reckless endangerment for stealing copper and endangering the lives of passengers, authorities said, and has been locked up at the Wyoming Correctional Facility in Attica.

But he was recently granted parole, and could be back prowling the tunnels by the summer.

The MTA has had Hayes in its sights since at least 2005. Every time he’s released from prison, the NYPD makes a point of alerting officials at the MTA that Hayes is free and could strike again, an MTA official told The Post.

In the past, when he’s left prison, it doesn’t take long for Hayes to jump onto the tracks and prowl the train tunnels, hacking off sections of copper cable.

“We do not generally talk about such crimes so as not to encourage others to attempt this,” New York City Transit president Andy Byford told The Post. “This person is a known recidivist and we work closely with NYPD to protect our assets.”

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