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Copper thieves target City street lights in Springs, cost tax pa - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Copper thieves target City street lights in Springs, cost tax payers $150,000

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

Colorado Springs Utilities is calling a rash of copper wire thefts "out of control" after dozens of city street lights have been hit, the thieves ripping the wiring right out of the bases of light poles.

CSU estimates it's spent more than $150,000 on repairing the damaged light poles. The thefts are not only costing the tax payers money, but putting them in danger as well.

"What's alarming to us a lot of time is the danger they could cause to the general public," said Lt. Catherine Buckley with Colorado Springs Police Department.

The danger is caused by the way the suspects are stealing the copper.

"These thieves come across a street light base, they smash it open, tie the wire onto their cars and drive away," said CSU Operations Supervisor Jim McPartland.

The thefts are leaving possibly live electrical wires exposed.

"We've had an extremely moist spring and summer so that could cause the ground to be energized by these open electrical lines so someone else could be hurt," said Buckley.

AND CSU estimates the thieves could only get a couple hundred dollars for all of the copper wire they've stolen in the past few weeks.

"The amount of money they actually obtain from the theft doesn't come close to what it costs us to put it back," said McPartland. "Right now it's out of control."

As for selling the stolen wire, there may not be much opportunity there either.

"Yeah we have to be very careful," said Matt Lawonn, General Manager of Koscove Metal.

Lawonn said they have an ongoing partnership with the CSPD's Metal Task Force and work with them regularly to combat illegal metal sales.

"Any kind of info we can provide them (CSPD) as to suspicious people, people that are matching descriptions, they'll bring us names sometimes of people that have brought wire to other yards," said Lawonn.

Buckley said just about all of the metal recyclers in Colorado Springs and El Paso County work with CSPD's Metal Task Force in helping to report suspicious activity or providing information on possible suspects.

"Metal recycling is important for the environment," said Buckley. "But because they know this involves criminal activity they are very cooperative with us

But one of the challenges in the business comes from the fact that thieves remove the insulation around the copper wire, making it difficult to tell where the wire came from. That also makes the copper useless to the City even if it is recovered.

"When you look at one piece of copper wire versus another piece of copper wire it's hard to say where it came from etc," said Lawonn.

But that doesn't necessarily discourage metal recyclers like Koscove from trying to weed out the illegal sellers.

"The only thing that gives it a lot of times is we'll have electrical companies that bring it in, and people that look like they shouldn't bring it in you know," he said.

CSPD did arrest two people Thursday morning at a motel in the 3500 block of W. Colorado Avenue, and found about 1,000 feet of street light wire as well as tools and other items used to cut and strip wire.

But detectives believe there are more people involved and are asking for the public's help in finding the copper thieves. They say if you see suspicious activity or notice a damaged street light, to call police right away at 719-444-7000.

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