By Ben Mullin
Copper thieves, beware: The city of Sacramento is trying to pull the plug on wire theft.
In an effort to halt the rising tide of copper theft from Sacramento street lights, the city announced Thursday that public works employees will begin installing new wires with a unique indentifier signifying them as city property.
The new wires, which will be put in throughout the city over the next few years, were installed in response to hundreds of wire thefts resulting in 20,000 street-light repairs over the last three years that cost the city an estimated $1.68 million.
"It was having such a devastating effect on the community," said Steve Harrold, Sacramento County's supervising deputy district attorney. "It was really outrageous."
At the height of the problem, police investigated three to five instances of wire theft per week, said Norm Colby, an operations general supervisor from the City of Sacramento.
Copper wire theft has been a problem for about 10 years, but the increase during the last three years was likely prompted by higher demand for copper in countries like China and India, said Ken Leonard, a Sacramento police officer who leads the city's two man Metal Task Force.
By pulling up three or four copper wires that connect one light pole to the next, thieves can steal as much as three to four hundred yards of wire from one pole, Leonard said.
"This is their job," Leonard said. "This is how they make their money."