The Davis Police Department is concerned about safety and monetary costs as rows of darkened lights and copper-wire thefts have hit Davis hard over the past few weeks.
Since April 28, the thieves targeted parks, greenbelts and bike paths in Mace Ranch, West and South Davis, Arroyo Park, the Aspen subdivision greenbelt, Mace Ranch Park, the Putah Creek bike path, Walnut Park and Willowcreek Park.
The thieves gain access to the wires through electrical pull boxes in the ground. They cut the wires, then pull them out of their underground conduits.
City Electrician Butch Breault told the Davis Enterprise that to date close to 40,000 feet of wire have been stolen and added the electrical wire is costly to replace, both in materials and staff time.
Grant Olson, senior electrician for the city of Davis, said the thefts are a serious budget problem.
“There’s a certain amount of money in the general fund allotted for vandalism, but the fund is depleted,” Olson said. “Copper is expensive and we’re talking miles of wire here. We’ve had thefts in past, but this is the largest wire theft the city has dealt with and it’s happening up and down the I-80 corridor. As price of copper goes up, so have the number of thefts.”
Breault said the wire is then sold at salvage yards for a profit. He declined to give the material’s value, fearing that it might exacerbate the problem.
The Public Works Department will discuss with City Council how to fund replacing the wiring, Olson said.
Detective Sergeant Paul Doroshov said the Davis Police Department is calculating the costs of the lost wire and is currently pursuing leads.
Doroshov agreed the thefts have become a lot more frequent and said there is a safety issue because a lot of people hang out at these parks and there are now dark spots.
“It’s important that people remain diligent on belts,” Doroshov said. “Call in to the police when something looks suspicious because it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Jim Newman, Parks and General Services Superintendent, said his staff has been alerted of the problem and the department is working to inform the public of the issue.
“Most of the thefts have been occurring between two and three in the morning,” Newman said. “This has become a primetime to not be noticed because normally this type of theft would take place around midnight.”
The Public Works Department will purchase the wire for repair, either through contracting or in house.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.