Copper thieves target street lights in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

The head of Fresno Public Works says the lights are dark because copper wires running to the lights have been cut. The wiring here has not been taken yet. Officials say the crooks often cut power to the lights before they return to strip it out.

Don Marshall said he began noticing the open street light boxes on Thursday -- that's when he called the city to report the exposed wiring.

"We looked out last night and of course there's no street lights on Brawley and this was fine. We got up this morning and this was this way," said Don Marshall referring an open light box with exposed wires in front of his house.

Marshall says no one responded to his calls. When he saw the box directly in front of his house had been hit, he called Action News.

Patrick Wiemiller, the Public Works Director in Fresno, said about 2,000 city street lights are dark due to theft. Repairs are costing the city around $50,000 a month -- making for a total expense of nearly a million dollars over the past few years.

"We only have limited resources unfortunately, so for right now the bad guys are winning," said Wiemiller.

Action News showed Wiemiller the open light boxes and exposed wiring in this neighborhood and he immediately called for a crew to cover up the boxes. "It's always a race for us trying to secure the streetlight sights and to handle repairs."

About 30-minutes after Wiemiller's call, a crew surveyed the damage and made temporary repairs.

"It'll be cheaper for us, we don't have to go through an entire rewiring. We'll just repair the cuts that have been done."

Fresno Public Works has responded to more than a dozen calls for copper wire theft just this weekend. The city estimates that for every light repaired, about five go dark from copper wire theft. To try and curb that, each box that's repaired will be cemented over to eliminate easy access to the wires.

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