Copper Thieves Target Natomas Street Lights

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz
A stretch of North Park Drive in Natomas will likely remain dark for weeks after thieves stole copper wire used to power 11 street lights along the two-lane roadway.

Sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning copper thieves accessed at least a half dozen different concrete utility covers between Natomas Boulevard and Broadwater Drive to gain access to conduits and strip sections of copper wire, each about 100 feet long.

Area resident Molly Ibietatorremendia spotted several open utility covers with wires pulled out and called the city’s 311 operator to report the theft at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday. She worried openings in the sidewalk and exposed wires posed a danger to students who were walking along North Park Drive on their way to H. Allen Hight Elementary and Natomas Middle schools.
“My main concern was the kids,” said Ibietatorremendia.

City transportation workers on the scene first thing Wednesday morning said the thieves must have been scared away because copper lines closer to Broadwater Driver were only partially removed.

Within a 24-hour period, between Nov. 29 and Nov. 30, Sacramento officials said they received 66 reports of street lights out and another 14 calls of street light damage citywide. Some outages are due to burnt out bulbs, but most are the result of copper wire theft – and many of those are in Natomas.

During the 2011 calendar year, the city received 973 reports of lights out in District 1 or north Natomas, 311 spokesperson Gina Knepp said. That’s compared to 619 reports in District 3 which includes most south Natomas neighborhoods and 469 reports in District 4 which includes the River Oaks area.
“The lights on Natomas Boulevard, between Rose Arbor & Bradburn, have been out for a long time. When I called it in last week, they said it was called in the week before, & it might be copper-related.” -Elena Quintero via Facebook
Partially built housing developments in Natomas have proven popular with copper thieves.

“Those are the areas targeted,” Knepp said. “They’re hit hard.”

THE NATOMAS BUZZ received reports of copper stolen from street lights on Cliff House Way and Mabry Drive over the weekend.
“The lights on Natomas Boulevard, between Rose Arbor & Bradburn, have been out for a long time,” Elena Quintero told THE NATOMAS BUZZ via Facebook. “When I called it in last week, they said it was called in the week before, and it might be copper-related.”

Copper wire thieves have left 175 locations throughout city in the dark the last several months, according to Transportation Dept. spokesperson Linda Tucker. Some reports involve several blocks of street lights out within each location reported.

For example, copper wiring was stolen from lights along Irongate Way to Blackrock Drive two weeks ago and remain unlit. Area resident Sandy Brooks said it’s not safe for Natomas Charter School students walking home after school activities in the dark.

“If I were their parents, I would be worried,” she said.

When Brooks’ husband called to report the dark streetlights, he was told it would the city several weeks to get them working again.

The city is replacing concrete or missing utility access covers with bolted steel covers to prevent future incidents.

Tucker said the Transportation Dept. has enough money to buy about 900 of the covers – about $100 each – before going back to the City Council and asking for money to buy more.

“Every time they pull the wires, they are damaging conduits,” she said. “It takes days and days to repair what (thieves) are getting out of boxes in minutes.”

Glenn Robinson contributed to this report. Photos by Glenn Robinson of Glenn Robinson Photography.


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