Santa Monica Lookout
Copper Thieves Leave Santa Monica Residents in the Dark
By Jason Islas
October 4, 2013 -- Police are investigating a recent spate of copper wire thefts that has left several residential streets in Santa Monica's north side without lights.
According to investigators, over the past month thieves working in the early hours of the morning have made off with about $25,000 worth of copper wiring from street lights.
On Tuesday, residents in the 800 block of Yale Street noticed their street lights -- the most recent target of the thieves who may be trying to capitalize on a recent spike in copper prices -- had gone dark.
“Most likely the copper wire is being sold at recycling centers throughout the County,” Santa Monica Police Detective Vince Gamache told The Lookout.
According to NASDAQ, the going price for copper rebounded from a low of $3.05 a pound to more than $3.55 a pound in mid-August, just before the thefts began. Currently, NASDAQ reports that copper is currently selling for $3.26 a pound.
While Gamache did not comment on whether the six thefts were related, he did say that it was clear that whoever is committing the crimes knows how to work with electricity.
“During the early morning hours several thousand feet of copper wire was stolen from the concrete street light pull boxes,” he said.
Describing the thieves method, he said, “the unsecured pull box covers are removed, the wires are cut with power still on, then the copper wire is removed from the underground conduits.”
The process, he said, can take several hours, depending on how many light poles are affected.
The thieves work “generally during the early morning hours,” said Gamache, when “most of the residents are asleep.”
He reminded residents that if they see anything suspicious, they should call 911.
Gamache said that because the thieves steal the wires while the power is still on, there is a possibility of explosion.
Authorities believe that an explosion at a building at UC Berkeley Monday was actually the result of copper wire theft. According to reports, authorities believe the explosion, which left four people with minor injuries, happened after a power-system failure caused by the missing wires.
Police are asking for help finding the thieves.
“There are some investigative leads we are following up on and would like the citizens of Santa Monica to report any suspicious persons, vehicles in their neighborhood between the hours of 2 am and 5 am,” said Gamache.
Residents with surveillance cameras that might have picked up footage of the crime should call Gamache at (310) 458-8978, officials said.
Residents can also report suspicious activity at (310) 458-8491.
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