The FBI is investigating allegations by Verizon Communications Inc. of sabotage of up and down the East Coast — including more than two dozen incidents in the D.C. area — that have occurred since 45,000 workers went on strike last week.
More than 110 instances of wire cutting have occurred in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, knocking out service to thousands of customers, officials said. The FBI confirmed that an inquiry is being handled out of the FBI’s field office in Newark, N.J.
“Because critical infrastructure has been affected, namely the telecommunications of both a hospital and a police department, the FBI is looking into this matter from a security standpoint,” Special Agent Bryan Travers said in an email.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier issued a bulletin to D.C. residents to be on the alert for potential vandals and people carrying an ax or cutting tool of any type, including scissors. The company also is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of anyone who intentionally damages Verizon cables or facilities or causes or attempts to cause physical injury to any Verizon employee or contractor.
Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette told The Washington Examiner on Friday that more than 28 instances of sabotage have occurred around the Washington area. The acts have knocked out service to thousands of customers.
Cables have been sliced and distribution boxes have been cracked open and gutted, Arnette said. “That’s where they can cause more damage and cause more customers to go out of service,” she said.
Eighteen incidents have been in D.C., 10 in Maryland and at least two in Virginia in the past week.
Most of the vandalism occurred in Northwest Washington, around Woodley Park, Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Georgia Avenue.
The damage comes as 45,000 Verizon landline workers from Massachusetts to Virginia are fighting management demands for contract givebacks.
The union, the Communications Workers of America, said it doesn’t condone the unlawful acts.
The strike is the largest U.S. strike since 73,000 General Motors picketed in 2007. The last Verizon strike was in 2000, when CWA workers went on strike for 18 days.