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Sacramento Copper Wire Theft Epidemic Costing City Big Bucks

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Nick Janes Nick Janes
Nick Janes joined KOVR/KMAX in December 2008 as a reporter. Nick...
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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Neighborhoods throughout Sacramento are in the dark as the city grapples with the ongoing problem of copper thefts and officials consider allocating thousands to replenish wiring.

The City Council was set to vote Tuesday night on whether to spend $160,000 to buy new copper wiring. Most of that money will be used to fix street lights that are out because of the work of copper thieves.

To put it in perspective,$160,000 gets you 480,000 feet of copper wire, enough to stretch from north Sacramento to San Francisco.

A proud new dad, Tim Rotta keeps an extra eye out these days in his north Sacramento neighborhood, which can be tough at night. His street lights are knocked out.

“We hear noises and we’re not sure what’s making the noises or anything like that,” Tim said Tuesday.

It’s a well-documented, widespread problem in Sacramento. Some areas have been dark for months.

“We came out in the morning wires … and it was just ripped out of the ground, up and down up for blocks,” neighbor Michelle Kustin-Hall said.

Tackling the problem isn’t cheap. The city council is expected to approve spending more than $158,000 on just copper wire and $200,000 on a contractor to continue working full time for the next year.

The money comes from a $2 million pot set aside for the copper wire theft epidemic bolstered by Measure A sales tax revenue and the city’s risk management fund.

Chuck Beard is one of the contractors replacing stolen copper wire day after day.

“These are special tamper-proof bolts,” Chuck said as he tightened them down. “They bounce us around the city to get everybody because people have been out for over a year.”

The city aims to finish existing repairs in 90 days, which means it’s a few more months in the dark for some.

“The kids play out here all the time and you can’t see anything at all, you can’t see the kids,” one mother said.

The good news is the new wiring comes with new steel lids.

“They’ve devised this locking lid that’s a lot tougher to get into,” Chuck said. “If they really wanted to they could spend a lot of time and get it off, but they’re going to make a lot of noise and most of the time they give up quickly.”

Since contractors like Chuck began installing the lids, the city says nobody’s busted one open to rip off the copper underneath.

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