Fresno plans to keep thieves from turning off the lights

FRESNO, Calif.

Since March of 2012, city workers have checked, fixed and sealed the copper wire that runs through nearly 41,000 streetlights in Fresno. About 25,000 of those lights have ground pull boxes where copper wire is fed to the poles from underground. And about 5,000 of those lights have had to be fixed after thieves helped themselves to the copper wire.

On Tuesday, city crews finished work on the final streetlight on their list, on the corner of E. Champlain Dr. and E. Perrin Ave. in Northeast Fresno. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and councilmembers Lee Brand, Steve Brandau and Paul Caprioglio were there to see the project completed.

"I think it's fair to say the dark days of Fresno are over. The lights are coming back on," the Mayor said.

As crews poured concrete over the final pull box, councilmembers Brandau and Caprioglio got on cherry pickers and changed the final bulb, ending the city project to repair and reinforce all street lights from thieves.

Swearengin applauded Brandau and Caprioglio, who personally worked to fix nearly 500 street lights in their respective districts.

Brand was especially happy to see the project completed. He drafted the legislation that dedicated the money needed to accelerate the repair of the lights.

"It's nearly impossible without a jackhammer to open the ground pull box; therefore, copper thefts have been eliminated at least as far as city streets," Brand said.

Brand says many neighborhoods have noticed a change in street lighting. Not too long ago, Brand says the city saws a rash in copper wire thefts that affected many streetlights and dimmed the streets.

The cost of improving all the city's streetlights cost nearly $2-million, but says Brand says it will help the city in the long run.

We were spending about a million dollars a year on a crew going around constantly replacing (copper wire)," Brand said. "Now we have the resources to put those into potholes, streets, curbs, gutters, other types of public work's needs."

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