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The owner of an East Amherst fitness club says he is still getting over the shock of two brazen thieves who, using a bucket truck, cut high voltage electrical lines and removed them, temporarily shutting down his business two days before Christmas.

“They had to have a professional grade, powered cutter and insulated gloves. The high voltage power lines are an inch in diameter. This aren’t household electrical lines. If you touched these live wires, you could be severely injured or possibly die,” said Christopher Salisbury, owner of hive Lifespan Center.

The crooks committed their crime at about 2 a.m. Dec. 23, leaving the fitness facility and two other businesses in the dark on two of the busiest shopping days of the year, though a hair cutting salon there managed to get by with a portable electric generator.

Amherst police said they are continuing the investigation and have estimated that the stolen copper, approximately 240 feet, was valued at $1,000. But the thieves also caused $4,000 in damage to three electric meters servicing the businesses in the building at 9570 Transit Road, near the intersection of North French Road.

“I’m not an electrician, but it would seem a pretty desperate proposition,” Assistant Police Chief Charles C. Cohen said of the risks taken by the thieves in tampering with live electrical lines.

A surveillance camera from a nearby business, Cohen said, recorded images of a bucket truck pulling up and two men wearing ski masks committing the theft.

The crime was more than just stolen copper, a popular item among thieves because of the high price the metal fetches at scrap yards, according to Salisbury.

“Personal trainers lost wages, club members lost workouts and you never recoup the business you would have picked up. I probably lost $3,000 in gift certificate sales and sporting apparel sales from last-minute purchases before Christmas,” he said.

What is even more upsetting, Salisbury added, is that this is not the first time crooks have stolen the exterior electrical lines powering the building. Lines were stolen in January 2012.

And there have been other instances of this type of theft in the town, police said.

“Earlier in the year, during the warmer weather, we had a couple of these types of crimes scattered in the town, but it would be hard to call it a pattern,” Cohen said, adding that patrol officers have been told to be on the alert for these kinds of thefts.

Evidence has been secured from this latest theft and detectives are actively investigating, Cohen said.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com