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Springfield City Utilities dealing with rise in copper wire thefts

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 9:23 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield City Utilities says it has experienced a rise in copper wire thefts across the area.

City Utilities is asking for help after thieves have stolen copper wiring between street lights and even utility poles. City Utilities says thieves have taken wiring from both above ground and underground, damages which cost the city thousands.

Thieves have hit major roadways like parts of Kansas Expressway, according to City Utilities spokesperson Joel Alexander. He said this is not a new issue, but said it is becoming more of a problem than ever before. Alexander said it is ultimately costing Springfield residents and utility customers.

“They’ve actually gotten the wiring, the conductor, that’s underneath the streetlights underground,” Alexander said. “[They’re] actually getting that and pulling it out, disabling not just one streetlight, but a series of streetlights.”

It has happened along streets like Kansas Expressway, West Republic and West Kearney.

“When the price of copper starts to go up, we start to see an increase in the theft of copper,” Alexander said.

On top of the underground street light wiring, Alexander said thieves stole more than a mile of overhead copper cable from power lines.

”Once it’s discovered, that is a situation where we immediately have to get in there and make those repairs and replace that conductor,” Alexander said. “The streetlights, while those are important, we’ll get to those as quickly as we can, but the service going to our customers overhead and underground with the electrical service to their homes and businesses is critical.”

Alexander said the thieves seem to know exactly what they are doing.

”They know how to do it,” he said. “They know exactly what they’re looking for and so far they’ve been able to do it.”

Regardless, Alexander said this type of theft can be extremely dangerous.

”Whatever the thieves are doing, they’re actually dealing with live electrical wires and high voltage current,” he said. “So that’s endangering their lives plus endangering the service that will provide to other customers.”

Alexander said the issue is hindering other work, and costing unnecessary funds.

“The money that’s diverted to pay for this is diverted from projects that the community is looking for in other ways,” he said. “So we’re coming off of other projects, delaying other projects potentially. So it’s just a terrible situation.”

Alexander said the thefts have also created a few other issues.

“It’s a dangerous situation for our customers who are driving around in areas that may not be as well lit as they once were,” he said. “It kind of destabilizes the electric grid out in those areas.”

City Utilities has asked Springfield Police and the Greene County Sheriff for help.

“It’s something we need to take care of,” Alexander said. “Working with the Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff, and other law enforcement, we’re hoping to find a way to hopefully identify who these people are, and go from there.”

City Utilities is also asking the public to be on alert and keep an eye out for any suspicious activity across area neighborhoods and local streets.

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