By Omar Guzman |Staff Writer|
San Bernardino is taking new measures to prevent criminals from darkening the streets.
About 1,200 streetlights, roughly one out of every 10, have gone out due to copper-wire theft, According to the San Bernardino Public Works Department.
“The first thing we need to do is get the lights back on to prevent more crime from happening,” said 5th Ward Councilman Chas A. Kelley.
According to the San Bernardino police department the value of copper has gone up from 60 cents per pound, 10 years ago, to as much as $6 dollars per pound. It is sold to recycling centers.
“There are many areas near the university that have been affected by these thefts, for example near Campus parkway, Kendall, University parkway, North park, and College,” said Kelley.
When criminals see that the price of copper is up and nothing protecting the streetlight copper-wire, they are more apt to steal.
“When the streets are not lit up, it makes it easier for those who want to commit a crime, and usually cars are broken into or stolen, so we advise people to not leave valuables in plain sight where criminals can easily see them,” said Kelley.
At first the city did not think it necessary to lock up the vaults that covered the copper-wiring, since it had very little value.
Burglars were not discouraged after the city tried to cover the vault lids with sand and asphalt.
In response, the city has now taken a new approach and have covered the wires with plastic, cemented the vaults shut, as well as welded the covers on the poles to prevent any further robberies.
“Cementing the vaults shut seems to be the best solution, so far those that have been shut have not been broken into,” said Kelley.
He also added that the city’s electricians would have to break the cement open in order to fix the wiring if necessary.
The police department has been working with recycling centers to try and get the identification of those who turn in large amounts of copper-wire but there seems to be an invasion of customer privacy and it may take some time before a compromise is reached.
The Public Works Department expects the city to fix all the lights by June of 2012.
However, Kelley believes that by aggressively tackling the situation and quickly fixing and acquiring the preventative maintenance for the lights that are out, the goal can be reached much sooner.
“If you and I wanted to live a life in crime, there are certain places where we would prefer to shop,” said Kelley.
Kelley made clear that he believes that the most affected areas in the city are at the north end, mainly because there are fewer police patrols there.
“If citizens see people working on the streetlights during nighttime or early morning, it most likely isn’t us, even if they look like they work for the city,” Kelley said
“Even in broad daylight, most people are not aware that they are witnessing a robbery,” Kelley concluded.