Davis city officials are asking the public to be on the lookout for possible incidents of copper wire theft following a recent rash of criminal activity.
More than 6,000 feet of the valuable wire has been reported stolen from city property since the beginning of 2013, costing thousands of dollars for the city to repair and/or replace, according to the Davis Police Department.
“It’s a very frustrating situation — they’re literally pulling it out as fast as we’re putting it in,” Grant Olson, a senior electrician for the city, said Friday. “It’s almost every week that we’re finding a new occurrence.”
Olson said one of the worst thefts took place around mid-August, when about 1,600 feet of wire was yanked from the ground along Second Street near the Target store in what Olson described as a “very professional” looking job.
“It was not only very bold, but it was very clean and efficient,” Olson said. The price tag to replace the wire: more than $7,700.
City electricians are asking the public to report any suspicious activity that may be related to these thefts, such as groups of street lights that suddenly stop working, or people with unmarked vehicles who are seen opening the junction boxes that provide access to the copper wire.
Thieves target the wire because it can be sold for quick cash at scrap yards, which often do not question the source of the materials.
In July, police recovered about 2,400 feet of city-owned wire after contacting a person who had it in his possession. He claimed to have found the wire, and police were unable to connect him to the theft, Davis police Lt. Glenn Glasgow said.
Local copper-wire thefts peaked during the spring and summer of 2010, totaling roughly $100,000 in losses and creating a public-safety problem as some local bike paths and greenbelts were left in pitch-darkness. Other cities along the Interstate 80 corridor were targeted as well.
Olson said that while some stolen wire might be worth just a few hundred dollars, the costs quickly escalate once city electricians and police officers get involved to investigate and prepare reports about the thefts. Then comes the cost of replacement.
“It just becomes an extraordinarily time-consuming effort that is very costly to the city,” Olson said.
The Davis Police Department offers the following tips for dealing with possible wire-theft incidents:
* Report any suspicious activity immediately to the Police Department. Do not confront a suspected thief; focus on getting a license-plate number or good physical description instead.
* Do not tamper with any wiring. If you see wiring that appears to be exposed or tampered with, call the police. The department will dispatch officers to the scene to make sure no crime is taking place, and notify city electricians of the suspected damage.
* Alert your children to these dangers if they use the local parks and greenbelts. Make sure they know the dangers surrounding electricity. If they see any exposed wiring while playing or walking through the park, they should come home and notify an adult.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene