Thieves Can't Stop Stealing Copper From Detroit Freeway Streetlights

Illustration for article titled Thieves Can't Stop Stealing Copper From Detroit Freeway Streetlights

The Michigan Department of Transportation spent millions of dollars upgrading streetlights along I-94. Within days, part of the freeway on the city's east side was dark again after copper thieves snatched wiring from the posts.


You may have heard that parts of Detroit are dark thanks to non-working streetlights. Part of the problem is outdated equipment, dating back nearly 100 years. Part of the problem is an inability to pay to upgrade them. But another problem is scrappers boldly going after the valuable metal inside the posts. (For clarification's sake, the state operates the lights on the freeway and the city operates lights on residential streets.)

WWJ reports that the state is unsure about how to fix — again - the streetlights, mostly concentrated between 8 Mile Road (that one) and Conner Avenue near the SRT Viper plant.

"Some of the inventive ways — and I don't say that with any kind of positive, supportive term toward their creativity — but some of them are dressing up as utility workers," a spokewoman says. "They may have a vehicle that looks like an electrical van and even have safety vests on and maybe hard hats and be working near an electrical pole. Somebody thinks it's a real crew, but as it turns out, they're thieves that have found a way to break into our lighting system."

"You have to remember, we have to have some form of access that we can get to the lights to be able to maintain them and take care of them. We're testing some anti-theft deterrent things such as heavier concrete pieces that will fill these holes in the ground that is the access for the lighting," she said. "It is a very expensive thing to put these theft-deterrents in there."

The state's transportation department is hoping that proposed legislation cracking down on scrappers works in their favor, but in the meantime, parts of the freeway are still dark.

I'm not an expert on transportation lighting, but are LEDs an option? Someone who knows more about this than I do should weigh in down below.


William Sean McFly

Make it harder to scrap copper wire. Put such heavy restrictions on it, and heavy penalties on scrap yards that violate it. It's time to be draconian about this measure.

1. All copper wiring scrappers must be registered electicians, or electrical suppliers, and registered with the state.

2. Anybody attempting to scrap copper wire on site must be verified to be eligible on the spot with the state.

3. There's got to be a way to put tracking measures on copper wire, right? Anytime new lighting is put in, there should be a way to use its tracking info to find out where it was from. Determined to be from a public light pole? Cops are called immedietly.

4. Any yard accepting copper wire in violation of these rules suffers stiff penalties, including footing the bill for the replacement, and losing its license.