When streetlights go dark, it can be easy to assume that a bulb burnt out or some other mechanical failure is to blame. But now that copper prices have shot up to $4 a pound at salvage yards, there’s a good chance that light is dark because a thief stole the wires inside the pole.
The city of Poway has been dealing with copper thefts across town, said Director of Public Works Leah Browder. Street lights have been stripped of their copper wires in the business park, the Blue Sky Canyon Ecological Reserve’s parking lot and surrounding Espola Road area, around Poway High School and, most recently, Veterans Park.
“It was a typical wire theft for us,” Browder said of Veterans Park. “It’s just gone and the lights aren’t working anymore.”
The lack of lights at the park has not only left it in the dark at night, but the flags that usually fly over the park are gone. Protocol dictates that flags be illuminated at night, and with no city staff available to lower the flags every evening, they remain in storage until the wiring is replaced.
In the last year, copper thefts have cost the city $50,000, Browder said. She suspects the thefts are committed in the dead of night, but until culprits are caught there’s no way to be sure.
Browder said the Sheriff’s Department has been doing surveillance in certain areas, but members of the public can also keep an eye out for suspicious activity. People are asked to be on the lookout for:
• People lingering around city light poles. Thieves could be dressed as construction workers.
• Large trucks around city light poles, especially if the trucks don’t display corporate emblems.
• People appearing to work on city light poles.
• People pulling wire from city light poles.
The thieves are probably experienced in electrical work, since they have managed to avoid electrocuting themselves, and they can strip the copper and be gone in a short period of time.
Anyone that thinks they may be witnessing a wire theft should not confront the suspects, but they should write down their descriptions and vehicle information and call sheriff’s dispatch at (858) 656-5200, open 24 hours a day.