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BART police display the stolen copper and other tools they recovered when they served an arrest warrant on Dennis McGurie of San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, at police headquarters in Oakland, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

A 52-year-old San Francisco man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of stealing copper wire from electrified BART tracks in connection with a case that has bedeviled transit officials and caused thousands of dollars in damage.

BART police arrested Dennis McGuire outside his home in the 4200 block of 24th Street about 11 a.m. after officers served a search warrant. They said they found thick ropes of copper wire sheathed in rubber, heavy work gloves and bolt cutters they believe are linked to a least one copper wire theft on BART property this year, said transit agency Officer Era Jenkins.

McGuire faces six felony counts, including grand theft, trespassing, theft of precious metals and felony vandalism, police said.

A string of at least three wire thefts this year has cost the transit agency more than $90,000, BART officials said. "This is a dangerous crime," said BART spokesman Jim Allison, adding that the third rail on tracks carries a 1,000-volt charge. "So these people are risking their lives to rip us off." Police questioned McGuire on Dec. 2 after a BART officer stopped him and another man outside the Millbrae station in a truck with expired tags, Jenkins said.

Police couldn't hold either man but were able to gather enough evidence to get a search warrant for McGuire's home, she said. McGuire had been spotted near BART stations on several other dates and has been arrested before in San Francisco, she said. The other man, whose name was not released, is still a suspect, she added.

The latest theft was Tuesday morning when transit employees noticed that someone had pulled two, 20-foot lengths of inch-thick wire from tracks near Washington Street in Oakland. That area is between the West Oakland and 12th Street-City Center stations.

The damage did not interrupt train service but the thefts strain the agency's electrical system, Allison said. Similar thefts were reported in Oakland on Sunday morning and on the San Francisco Peninsula on Dec. 2.

BART's most costly copper theft occurred in the summer in a Pleasant Hill yard, where burglars stole a spool of cable scheduled to be used for a construction project in Contra Costa County. That project has been delayed because of the theft.

The wire helps return power to BART's system after the current passes through the electrified third rail to power the train's engine, officials said. Thieves break through fences on BART right of way to cut into the wire at times when the system is not energized.

BART officials previously called for authorities to place more accountability on scrap metal yards, which buy the copper wire for $3 to $4 per pound.

Staff writers Kristin J. Bender and Chris De Benedetti contributed to this story.