Letters: Copper-wire thieves strike again. And again. This isn’t working, St. Paul

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Copper thieves strike again. And 4 days later, again

In the Twin Cities, street lights illuminate our surroundings to allow us to see more clearly and to feel safer. I think that they also deter some forms of crime. For example, I think that cars parked on-street are less likely to broken into if they’re parked in well lit areas.  We also perceive our safety as being higher where there is good lighting.

Where we live in St Paul, the street light wiring was just stolen for the third time this year. This is the first time that this has been an issue in the 23 years that we’ve lived in our house. The last time the wiring was stolen this month, it had been installed four days earlier. After it was stolen the second time, I didn’t bother contacting the city to replace it because I knew that it would just be stolen again.

If the measures taken to prevent wire theft stay the same, I would like to encourage the city not to replace the wiring anymore. You read correctly … don’t replace it. Replacing the wiring is kind of like the city leaving money on the ground and expecting people not to pick it up. If it’s not replaced, eventually most of the wiring from the street lights will be removed and there will be no more wiring available to steal. Wire theft issue resolved. It’s not that their theft prevention ideas weren’t good. Things like using wire embossed with the city’s name, using security screws or welding the access panels shut, etc. just had work-arounds for a determined thief.

So, with the days getting shorter as winter approaches, what’s a St Paulite left in the dark to do? If a much darker city isn’t acceptable, I’d like to propose a different solution. If there’s no market for copper wire, this should discourage thieves from stealing it, right? I have to guess that much of the copper wire that is brought to metal salvage yards now was stolen. A person bringing in a large quantity of copper wire, new or used, has probably stolen it. Make it illegal for metal salvage yards to accept copper wire.  Yes, there will be a very small amount of “legal” copper wire that would then end up in the landfill. But, the cost of time and wire saved replacing stolen wire would more than outweigh this, I believe. In 2021, St Paul spent about $300,000 replacing copper street light wiring. I remember previously reading that the city has budgeted substantially more for this in 2023… perhaps $500,000? This solution would need to be supported by Wisconsin. Otherwise, thieves could easily bring it to our eastern border.

What do you think, Twin Cities? It’s either get used to it being much darker or try a potentially more effective way to deter copper wire theft. But, until something bolder is done to prevent wire theft, please consider wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing because no one can see you in the dark.

Dale Carlquist, St. Paul


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