City crews work to prevent copper wire theft

FRESNO, Calif.

In one subdivision in East Central Fresno, several street lamps are dark. Neighbors report one has been out for nearly a year and a half. They were initially told fixing the lights was a priority. "I feel defrauded. I think most people do. We're paying taxes and not getting the services we're paying for," said resident Jason Miller.

In the past few months, the city has changed its priority to prevention by securing the lights that work, rather than focusing on the ones that don't. "They were stealing faster than we could fix the lights, so we felt it was a priority to get the remaining lights and get those where they can't be stolen and then proceed with the lights that are out," said Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller.

The full-time effort has been going on for about two months and began after the city council approved additional funding to prevent copper wire theft. Wiemiller estimates the city is about 30% done.

In the meantime, people like Jason Miller are frustrated the city can't do both jobs at the same time. "The more lights you have out, the more chances people have to break in or cause problems because they're operating in the dark," said Miller.

Miller may have cause for concern. One mailbox has been broken into three times and there's also been a shooting in the neighborhood, the suspects perhaps shielded by the dark of night.

The city estimates securing all of the street lights will take another couple of months and Wiemiller said the efforts are working. So far, thieves haven't been able to get into any of the cement topped fixtures.

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