Lights out: Wire theft puts downtown streets in the dark

FRESNO, Calif.

The street lights around Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno are dark due to copper theft. That news came the same day city officials announce funding for a plan to curb copper theft city-wide.

Since this area will soon be filled with Grizzlies fans the city will soon turn these lights back on.

In some parts of downtown Fresno the only light at night is from a passing car or a traffic signal. Near Chukchansi Park entire rows of lights are out.

Action News first brought the darkened area to the attention of city officials Tuesday.

"The next morning an electrician went out and inspected and found it was another area that had been hit by copper wire theft," said Patrick Wiemiller, who heads the Public Utility Department.

He and his workers are struggling to keep up with the theft. Some city areas with darkened lights will wait at least six months to be repaired.

"Well we have graffiti out there, and the homeless they come and do a little damage and we have to clean that up. With lights they will stay away a little bit," said Daniel Toledo, who owns Pool Tables R Us. The shop is less than a block from the stadium.

Toledo hopes when the street lights come back -- criminals will go away. So does Fresno city council member Lee Brand. At a news conference Friday he said the city will be receiving at least a quarter of a million dollars from a legal settlement. That money could pay for repairs.

This includes sealing off access boxes with cement.

The darkened downtown area is taking a priority in repairs, Wiemiller said. "Within the couple weeks prior to the season, we go through and do a number of things with the infrastructure in the area to help make sure they're ready for the large crowds that will be going in and out on a regular basis."

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