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Copper wire ripped from city streetlights is a hot commodity

By on May 15, 2022 0

It’s a crime that literally leaves Londoners in the dark.

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It’s a crime that literally leaves Londoners in the dark.

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So far this year, thieves have looted around 900 meters of copper wire, a hot commodity that is fenced off for scrap, from streetlights across the city. Last year they flew 6,000 meters from the same source.

“It wasn’t a crime of opportunity,” said Cristine de Clercy, whose neighborhood south of Masonville was left without lights over the Easter long weekend. “Somebody came up with a plan and the equipment and the people to do it, and probably a way to get rid of it.”

Cheeky thefts, which usually occur under the cover of night, do not represent pennies. This year’s repair bill is $55,000 and more, says Shane Maguire, director of the traffic engineering division at City Hall. The tab last year: about $335,000.

De Clercy lives in the neighborhood known as the Triangle, on the northeast shoulder of Western University’s campus. On Sunday, April 17, she noticed something was wrong with the streetlights near her house.

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“The wiring, like the base cap, had been removed and it was clear someone had been messing around with it,” she said. “And that night we figured out the lights weren’t working because someone had stolen all the copper wiring from every light all the way down the road.”

The city teams were quick to come. They’re replacing copper wire — pulled from maintenance conduits in the floor between lampposts — with aluminum wire and leaving stickers saying there’s no copper left to steal, Maguire says.

The LED lights in the Clercy district are a few years old; copper wire is also used in old street lamps, but it is buried in the ground, making it more difficult to harvest.

“This is an organized crime,” said de Clercy, adding that what makes the theft in his neighborhood “particularly audacious” is that it took place on busy streets.

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Maguire says most crime happens “on roads with little or no residential properties so there aren’t as many people around”, but the north has seen a lot of theft in the past year.

Every time a lamppost is hit, Maguire says, a report is sent to London police. “The challenge is to catch people in the act,” he said.

About 560 meters of copper wire was removed from the Triangle, he said. There is no central system connected to every light in London to alert crews to where the malfunctioning ones are, and thieves avoid injury by first disconnecting some sort of fuse box in the base of the light. standard. There’s 120 volts running through the wires and “any kind of voltage will kill you,” according to Maguire.

Streetlights aren’t the only target either. In February and again in March, thieves hit the charity Growing Chefs on King Street.

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The refrigerator and freezer motors are located outside the building, explained executive director Andrew Fleet. “You have to go to the back of the building and over fences and into an area where you won’t go unless you’re looking for them.”

Fleet estimates the thieves took “approximately 20 feet” of wiring from both units. “They actually cut off the vent flats and then just stripped all the copper wiring. . . it’s insulated so you can’t actually see it’s what it is. And they rip all of that out and they strip the inside of the unit and strip all the copper out of it,” he said.

The charity will be responsible for around $20,000 in repairs and additional security on top of what its insurance will cover, which has put Growing Chefs, which has been out of service for six weeks, in a “precarious position ” according to Fleet. .

“It strikes me as an act of someone desperate for a few dollars,” he said.

Asked how serious London’s copper wire theft problem is and how many properties have been affected this year, a London police spokesman said those statistics were not readily available.

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