Copper wire theft hits home for Fresno councilman

FRESNO, Calif.

One city councilman learned first-hand about crime as it relates to lighting. His home was burglarized a week ago and the lights behind his home were stripped by copper wire thieves.

Fresno City Councilman Oliver Baines still has to replace the shattered window and door that thieves broke to get into his Southwest Fresno home.

The crooks went upstairs and took jewelry and money then made off with his TV and computer.

The former Fresno Police officer says he's knows all about the correlation between dark streets and crime.

"People don't like to operate with light. They like to operate under the cover of darkness," said Baines. "In residential neighborhoods when you remove that safety net of lights, it invites a public safety problem that wasn't there before."

If signed into law, assembly bill 316 would provide that every person who steals, takes or carries away copper materials of more than $950 would be guilty of grand theft. Current law states a value of $950 may be punishable by either a misdemeanor or a felony.

City of Fresno public works and utilities director Patrick Wiemiller says the problem fluctuates constantly with the value of copper. He believes the new law may not make much of a difference.

"I'm in favor of any steps we might take that'll help curb this problem certainly," said Wiemiller. "I'm just not sure this particular bill on it's own will be the final solution that we're looking for, probably not."

Councilman Baines believes the bill is a start, but not enough to get desperate thieves to stop. It's too easy to steal copper wire and way too profitable.

"Typically a criminal factors what if I get caught on the forefront of the crime," said Baines. "Of course, when you stiffen penalties the idea is that you deter people, I don't know that there's enough evidence of that with copper wire theft. They've been successful at getting away with it. And I'm not sure we're prosecuting very many people at all."

The bill is on Governor Brown's desk, and has been for the past three weeks. Councilman Baines says since the city is six months behind replacing copper wire, flood lights are a good investment to protect your home.

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