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Copper Thieves Leave Tacoma Streets In The Dark For Months

Some streets in Tacoma will be in the dark for at least another six weeks, maybe longer. Thieves have been stealing copper wire from street lamps and city workers haven’t been able to keep up with repairs.

The theft of copper wire is nothing new. But this winter, Tacoma has been especially hard hit. Curtis Kingsolver, director of public works for the city of Tacoma, says for the first 10 months of the year, the city had about one copper wire theft-related street light outage a month.

“But, in the last two months of 2013, we had 56 outages, so we just had this huge rash of occurances that it’s been very demanding for us,” he said.

Kingsolver says if he just used the two employees tasked with repairs, the lights wouldn’t all be fixed until next September. The city is looking at bringing in private contractors to help out. But even with that, it will take six to 10 weeks to bring all the lights back on. 

It isn’t affecting that many people, Kingsolver says, but for those who live on those dark blocks, the difference is huge.

“They want to be out there walking their dogs. Of course, this time of year, it gets dark early. People go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, and this time of year, without the street lights, it just exacerbates that,” he said.

And to prevent more thefts, Kingsolver is asking everyone to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. He says the thieves will come into a neighborhood looking somewhat official in a truck and wearing orange vests. If you don’t see a Tacoma city or utility logo, he says, chances are good the "workers" are engaged in illegal activity.