STOCKTON (CBS13) — Thieves are targeting road construction projects, swiping scrap metal and copper wire leaving pricey repairs in their wake.

They’ve hit two major highway projects on Interstate 5 and Highway 99 in the Stockton area.

Not far from two construction site thefts, two freeway signs are covered in graffiti to the point they were unreadable.

California Highway Patrol investigators say burglars first swiped large piles of scrap metal from the Interstate 5 highway widening project—a $12,000 loss.

Thieves then targeted a construction site along Highway 99, stealing more than 1,000 feet of copper wire, causing about $100,000 in damage.

“If they have to replace any boxes the wire is housed in, if they are just pulling the wires out they may damage the system, which is going to require more repairs than just replacing the wire,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Chantel Miller.

She says copper wire thefts are a statewide problem and cost the department $50 million in 2012, money that could have gone to roadway improvements.

The recent thefts haven’t delayed the major construction projects.

Caltrans wants people, especially early-morning commuters to watch for suspicious activity, or thieves posing as construction workers.

“There is only so much we can do,” Miller said. “If we can get people to report it as it’s happening, then maybe we can stop the theft.”

The CHP hasn’t arrested anyone, and says it’s too soon to know if the crimes are connected. Caltrans cleaned up the graffiti blocking the highway sign.


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