By Kurtis Ming

Red and blue flashes, and the blinding beam of a helicopter spotlight, lit up the nearly pitch-black North Highlands street, as police finally chased down a shooting suspect just minutes after midnight.

It all came as quite a shock to resident Suzette Halterman, who said the suspect had hopped her fence and run through her yard — adding urgency to a complaint she and her neighbors had been reporting to Sacramento County for some time:

After two months of darkness, they need their street lights back on.

“I was actually so scared that I left my house and I went to my mother’s house,” said Halterman, who has lived in the neighborhood for years. “We’re losing our security on our streets.”

Residents all along San Ardo Way and the connecting Santa Fe Way have complained to the county about the lights, but so far no one will explain why repairs haven’t been made, Halterman said.

“Not a response from anybody,” she said. “And that to me is outrageous.”

“We have not been able to notify all the residents yet,” said Reza Moghissi, the chief of the Department of Transportation’s operations and maintenance.

The department simply can’t keep up with the 1,100 neighborhood street lights currently broken in the county — most of them because crooks have stolen the valuable copper wiring, according to Moghassi.

He said they have replaced the copper wiring in Halterman’s neighborhood before, only to have it stolen again.

“Wire theft has affected more lights in the past two and a half months than in the past 10 years combined,” he said.

Taxpayers such as Halterman pay a semiannual levy for street light maintenance in their neighborhood, but the county doesn’t want to replace wiring only to have it stolen again.

So now they’re going to try something new, Moghassi said.

“We have decided to weld [the light pole access box] shut so that no one will be able to get to it,” he said, acknowledging it will complicate the job for repair crews as well as for wire thieves.

Another change is that the in-ground access boxes will now be filled with concrete so the wiring isn’t exposed, he said.

Residents in dark neighborhoods, however, will be stuck without street lights for at least another month — even longer for most neighborhoods, according to Moghissi.

“We have given higher priority to [repairing] the traffic signals rather than the street lights,” he said.

“We’re coming into a time when it gets dark earlier,” said Halterman, saying she’s concerned for children in the neighborhood who will be trick-or-treating in complete darkness.

“Why am i paying for them if there’s nothing to maintain anymore?” she said.

After CBS Sacramento got involved, the county began sending out letters explaining the delay to affected neighborhoods, Moghissi said, adding that an informational Web page is also being made.

Once all the traffic lights are fixed, however, he said Halterman’s neighborhood will be first to get its lights back.

“That neighborhood is actually the first neighborhood we’re going to go to as soon as we get the contractor on board,” he said.