SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — There is now a shocking new strategy to fight copper crime.  Street lights are now staying on 24-hours a day in one Sacramento neighborhood and the city is banking on live wires to keep criminals away.

But during the day, it just seems like a waste.

“It’s a lot of money going down the drain,” says Steve Douthitt.

Steve Douthitt lives in a neighborhood where street lights stayed on all night and day for a full week.

“I’m just thinking somebody needs to reset the timer,” said Douthitt.

Douthitt has read about the city’s money trouble and thinks this is a shining light of government waste.

“Well, I’m wondering if maybe there’s budget cuts and they can’t send a crew out here to do it,” Douthitt says.

Turns out though, the city had their own light bulb moment to deal with a costly problem: Copper theft.

Mike Waldron is a Sacramento construction supervisor, and is charge of leaving these specific lights on.

“Oh, there’s thousands, thousands,” Waldron says describing the amount of lights left on.

The city now figures keeping them turned on will save money, by warding off copper thieves; keeping the lights on mean live wires, and the unlucky thief who doesn’t know better could be electrocuted.

It’s quite a warning, from a city that’s been hit hard by the copper crime.

“It’s a big deterrent; you think common sense would be a good deterrent, too,” says Waldron.

So in Steve Douthitt’s Natomas neighborhood, all the lights in undeveloped lots are now on for good.

“I believe these are 200 volts, and that would hurt,” said Waldron.

Comments (216)
  1. ExSophus says:

    Darn, when I edited I dropped a word…

    “System that Cures Motherearth (SCAM).”

    should have read as

    System that Cures All Motherearth (SCAM).

  2. Michael says:

    A timer or dimmer can be put at the base of each lamp, and the wires can be left powered on. That would discourage thieves, and keep electricity consumption about where it was before.

    1. Tiger Al says:

      You murderer!

    2. Mel Young says:

      You don’t use timers and dimmers on HID lamps. You use a photocell. Most street lights come with a socket for a photocell. Power is on and the photocell turns on the light as it gets close to dark and turns it off when dawn comes.

  3. Karl says:

    It would help if you would KILL those who are caught. At least you wouldn’t have to worry about them stealing again.

    1. Thomas says:

      Cost too much to electrocute them legally (i.e. appeals, etc.). Hence keep the lights on and if you are ACLU, please touch here!

  4. exdemocrat says:

    Poor souls, they’re just practicing the Robin Hood economics the liberals are so fond of, stealing from the rich (city) to give to the poor (thugs.) I mean how can these unfortunate democrat minions continue to support their lifestyle if they can’t steal a few puny tons of taxpayers property. C’mon, give em a break!

  5. Boocho says:

    Typical ignorant government attitude. They are NOT taking into consideration the “can-do American Spirit”! Even some homeless and many criminals are plagued with this same attitude. If there is a will, they will find a way. But then I guess Waldren can at least say “hey, we tried”, then maybe go take another nap at work.

  6. Solutions says:

    A few years ago, I had a car stereo store and I was broke into twice through the air conditioning unit. When I suggested to the police that I would remove a ground wire and make it “hot” they warned me that if someone got hurt or killed, because of my intent to harm that I would be prosecuted. But it is OK now if the government does it? In this case while wasting thousands of dollars in electricity to do it? Now, some of us landlords are using simple camera’s to actually catch these thieves. I personally know how it feels to have copper thieves steel from me (taking pipes from an empty apartment still leaving the water on flooding the place!) We set “hunting” camera’s in empty apartments now, and have actually caught a few, be sure to aim one outdoors too, they usually drive something. The cops were aggressive in prosecuting and life is getting better. And I did not kill anyone. Oh, and the thieves are now getting three meals a day! I am sure with the money the city is wasting they can go to Gander and pick up some of these cameras, they already have the gear to attach to a tree, why not a light pole?

  7. Allen Metzger says:

    I guess the f-ing cops in Sacramento can’t do their jobs. Why not fire all the incompetent cops, and save the money for the electricity. Also, if the thieves really want the copper in the wires wouldn’t a pair of electrical safety gloves do the trick?

    1. Mel Young says:

      You are as ignorant, and possibly, stupid as whoever came up with this nonsense. Photocells have been around for a half century and still, ignorant people, including many bureaucrats, fail to use them. Local warehouse club store uses timers and their parking lot and facade floodlights are burning for hours in the daylight because their manager (?) won’t get their electrician to install a simple photocell system to control the outdoor lights. Costing them thousands of dollars a month in wasted electricity and also, for every hour a light burns, that same light is NOT going to burn at night and the ballast equipment is NOT going to work at some point.

  8. Mar says:

    This is California. If some “unfortunate soul” is electrocuted while trying to steal copper wires, you better bet the city and state will be sued for millions.

    It sounds insane, but this is the land of crazy (and successful) lawsuits.

  9. Dave says:

    I have been in the utility business for 45 years and I have NEVER sold copper conductor for street light circuits. #4 or #6 covered aluminum is the standard for street lighting at every utility I have ever dealt with. It is about a quarter the price of copper.
    You people in California must have money to waste!!

    1. ExSophus says:

      Knowing California, they probably just banned ALL aluminum wiring some years ago.

      Remember that years ago there was national media-caused hysteria that “aluminum wiring causes fires in houses”?

      The CA legislature probably didn’t even bother to investigate and learn that the problem existed ONLY when the connections were made by mixing aluminum and copper wiring or contacts AND using the wrong design connectors.

      1. Dave says:

        This is not for residential wiring. This is the utility’s overhead or underground wiring. In the early days of the industry, when copper was cheap (1910-1950) most conductor was copper. But considering the cost of copper and the weight compared to aluminum, most utilities opt for lighter and less expensive aluminum conductor with a steel or alloy core for strenght.
        Has nothing to do with ‘house wiring’.

  10. FredGreenwald649 says:

    I used to work on hot wires all the time. you just have to know what you are doing, wear rubber gloves, cut one wire at a time, and work slowly. do not provide any paths through your body to ground or neutral. If you do it right, you don’t even get any fireworks or pops or flashes. If I were a tweaker stealing copper wires, this would not deter me in the least.

    Question: Why are they using copper anyway?

    1. FredGreenwald649 says:

      Or, they could just short some wires to ground and trip the breaker. Then the wires are no longer hot.

  11. J J says:

    Deport the thieving illegal Mexicans doing most of the stealing!

  12. J Ruben Kincaid says:

    Kicking out the illegals would be a better solution

    1. Rick Simm says:

      If you kicked out the illegal aliens, not many would vote Democratic. The only ones left would be drug addicts, welfare recipients, bed wetter’s and idiots. I doubt very much if Obozo could get reelected if the illegal aliens were kicked out of the country. Then again………….

  13. Older NewYorker says:

    Leaving electric lines open in the hope of electrocuting a thief is premeditated murder.

    1. Jubal says:

      And this is wrong, because?

      1. Rick Simm says:

        You would be killing potential Democratic voters.

  14. darwin-t says:

    Hey, nitwits. These power lines are hot all of the time anyway. They are controlled by a light activated switch ON THE STREET LIGHT.

    1. ExSophus says:

      Actually, that’s simply the control mechanism MOST streetlights in the US have used. (I addressed this in an earlier comment on the 6th or 7th.)

      You are wrong to categorize all these people as “nitwits”.

      Many cities have changed to 100% computer-controlled street lighting because they have been told it saves money (by eliminating an over-priced part prone to individual failure) and provides greater safety for maintenance personnel.

      By the way…the computer can be programmed to respond to a single centrally located dawn/dusk sensor…or even control groups of lights based on local solar intensity. Either method selected can be performed by simply using the internet to tie into pre-existing weather stations’ “solar intensity” data-feed(s). We have dozens of WX stations in our city that provide near real-time data on the intensity of the sunlight in that section of the city.

      The problem with centralized computer street-lighting control it is that now an ADDITIONAL single-point failure has been added to the control nexus that can cause massive simultaneous light outages throughout the city (e.g. computer virus like STUXNET, program error, computer hardware failure, inter-office memo error, operator error, etc.) Previously, the only single-point failure that could cause such a widespread problem would be a failure at the power generation or major grid-distribution sites. Thus the overall reliability of the system has been reduced.

  15. Jubal says:

    Lead is cheaper than electricity and copper. Just mandate that the recyclers keep records of whomever they buy from, and if the sources don’t pass muster, terminate both seller and buyer.

  16. Rick Simm says:

    Copper thieves get shot in Michigan unless they get electrocuted first.

  17. YeahRight says:

    Really. That would deter people?? If they are already risking themselves to steal it then they must know a little something about electricity. Sounds like a big waste of money keeping them powered. They should keep that money and put it towards investigating the places buying the wire. Match up the amount stolen with the amount bought and voila. Your using resources (already budgeted) via the police. I don’t get politicians and their ignorance. Admit you don’t understand the problem and ask your local businessmen for help. Any local commercial electrician could tell you five ways to Sunday on how stealing the copper can be accomplished without dying. Ps. 200 volts is a joke. I’d be impressed if they were jacking high tension power lines.

  18. Kelsey Golden says:

    Surging copper crime is a symptom of declining national currency. The real way to combat this problem is to stop electing people who choose to monetize debt rather than stop acquiring debt.

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