WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) – The next time you drive on I-95 and notice a street light is out you may have just witnessed the scene of a crime. It’s a crime that is making driving more dangerous.

Thieves are breaking into the bases of light poles along I-95 in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, trying to get at the valuable copper inside.

“They’re definitely doing it to sell the wire and make a profit and it’s unfortunate because it is causing a safety issue on the highways,” said Meredith Cruz with the Florida Department of Transportation.

In the last 4 to 6 months thieves have stolen copper wire from 100 lights in Palm Beach County, leaving drivers in the dark for 33 miles.

In all they took more than 175 thousand feet of copper wiring.

Miami-Dade has also been targeted. In the last year alone, 30 lights on the stretch of I-95 between NW30th and 79th streets have been vandalized for copper. So who pays the hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the streetlights? You, the taxpayer.

Derek Lawson is a licensed electrician and knows how difficult it would be to take wiring out of a light pole. Lawson also knows how risky it is.

“Very dangerous, you can lose your life.  One hit, you won’t hear a noise, you won’t hear anything, it’s over, good night, that’s it,” he told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.

Tuesday morning in Palm Beach, a Hialeah-based company will begin installing anti-theft devices on the light poles that were targeted. Next week another company will start replacing the wiring. The Florida Highway Patrol is asking for your help, if you see a driver stopped near a light pole on I-95 give them a call right away so they can check it out.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has set up a website where law enforcement authorities in the United States and Canada can report thefts. The information is relayed to recycling plants within 100 miles of the incident.

Comments (76)
  1. Archer says:

    How’s the ‘Hope and Change”™ working out there?

    1. Jane Louise Smith says:

      To be honest, there have always been thefts of cooper-laden equipment throughout our history. It’s just more widely announced now, just like the platinum thieves who are stealing catalytic converters who then sell the platinum contents of those converters at the current price of 1800/oz.

      1. smashicus says:

        Ridiculous! There is no doubt that this form of thievery has escalated.

    2. joe says:

      Obama will just pay for the copper and installation and repair. New spending and stimulus.

      1. Eric Swinson says:

        Obama pays? Really? This is a local government problem. I suggest you take a civics course as a refresher.

  2. ed says:

    they have to sell this stuff somewhere posting cops outside metal recyclers might nabsome of these guys, but thars just a thought

    1. Mike In Jax says:

      So, now taxpayers need to pay for Police officers to post gaurd at a recylcle plant??? Are you seriously suggesting that? I suggest putting the responsibilty on the recycle company itself, and make the consequences for getting caught with stolen material at these plants heavy and costly. Do surprise inspections on and ongoing basis. The recycle companies should come up with a standard of reciept of goods turned in and require a recipt of release from whatever company if the material being turned in is a quantity set by the recycling conpany that would raise suspicions. That way when someone comes in with several bundles of what looks like new copper wire to get recycled, the recycler can at least get information on file of who, what material and when it was brought in. Of course this is just a thought, I am sure that my thought has holes and caveats that would need to be fixed, my whole poiint being though to put the responsibilty on the recycle companies and not on the taxpayers that are already getting ripped off by the thieves who steal the material in the first place.

      1. Karl Menger says:

        Mike in Jax, you might want to rethink that.
        Who’s going to inspect the recycling places? Hmm…
        The Government? The Police?
        Still have to use tax-payers money to do inspections.

    2. mark says:

      that would make to much sense for this stupid government

  3. maryJo says:

    Odumba & BiteMe: ‘Recovery Summer*’

    (*need to recover the metal stolen over the summer)

  4. Rob says:

    Dam I remember obama saying it was going to be rainbows and puppy dogs once he was elected and that he would fix everything LOL What a joke he turned out to be.
    And now they are stripping the country of copper wire to sell to put food on their tables, yea he did a great job if destroying the American economy was the plan after all.

    1. JasonA says:

      …technically speaking, the destruction of a nation is indeed CHANGE.

  5. Common Sense says:

    Don’t cars in Florida have headlights? Or is it just that the liberals down there are too stupid to turn them on?

    Never mind, I answered my own question didn’t I.

    1. Jadr says:

      What is funny is that you probably think you are really witty.

    2. SockRayBlue says:

      Florida is “God’s Waiting Room”. The majority of those old folks are formal government employees such as teachers, public health workers, firemen, cops and just about any northeast public employee and they are mostly known for being very aggressive drivers and quite mean. That is also the first state to have a concealed carry law—I don’t know if that was to protect the oldsters or the ones left with functioning brains.

    3. TeaBag in Your Mouth says:

      Henry Ford was a democrat…. nuff said.

      1. Jane Louise Smith says:

        And Daimler & Benz were National Socialists. What you’re point?

      2. Liberty Jane says:

        He was a democrat as indicated by his rabid racism.

    4. Don't Talk When You're Teabagging says:

      Your ID “Common Sense” is an oxymoron. Emphasis on MORON

      1. Eric Swinson says:

        it is spot on. The most common level of intelligence appears to be stupidity.

  6. Darrel says:

    Time for a death penalty law for metal theives, with death in the electric chair to those convicted.

    1. Vince says:

      They will steal the wire running to the spark chair too!

    2. Rick says:

      No its a raising in lawlessness in a society who puts more value in monetary things then in personnel integrity. So what if cooper was $1 a pound instead of $4.
      You think they wouldn’t be stealing it.
      They only get $175,000 instead of $700,000? You got your priorities messed son.

  7. Jones says:

    No, actually it’s a result of the rising cost of copper, which makes it more attractive to thieves

  8. Montford John Greenwood says:

    Oh, I can just see how this investigation is going to go.

    Cop1) We gotta catch these copper thieves this is getting bad.

    Cop2) Nope, we have a worser crime rookie. Duh, dem kids is selling lemonade. We better go arrest them, duh boss says the scourge of lemonade stands has gotsta stop.

    Cop1) But, the copper thieves?

    Cop2) Look, here you dumb rookie, THE Janet Neapolitan says dem kids don’t get health and safety inspections on their savory treats.

    Cop1) There has been lemonade stands in American city and towns for decades and they’ve never been leaked to any plague or mass poisoning. lets get them copper guys.

    Cop2) But, dem kids is easy to beat up and intimidate rook.

    1. Tea Bag In Your Mouth says:

      So cop2 is a republican right?

      1. Retired SOF guy says:

        Your name on here says all we need to know about you. My nephew asked me what the difference between a conservative and liberal was, and to keep it at a level he could understand (he’s 13) I told him that it was like the difference between an adult (the conservative) and a child (the liberal). Adults (real adults, that is) accept responsibility for their actions, keep on point and eschew name calling, understand that life isn’t fair, etc.

      2. WilliamPenn says:

        Only a no-news-reading moron would think Cop 2 is a Republican.

      3. krp says:

        Actually RetiredSOF Guy, an better way to explain it is that liberals (Maybe we should start calling them “wussificationists” instead of liberals) are people that do not understand math.
        That is because they don’t have the patience or the mental capacity to learn how to get the correct answer, thus to them every thing is subjective and they hold positions that do not and cannot stand up to scrutiny or logic.

        Scenario: There are two marbles in a bowl, and two more marbles are added
        Conservative: There are two marbles in the bowl
        Liberal: *sniff* Math is hard. *sniff* *sniff* I don’t like math *sniff*sniff* Why do I have to take math? *sniff* It’s not fair! IT’S ALL BUSH’ FAULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Rod Anders says:

    Gotta love this Obamaconomy !

  10. Jon24 says:

    How about if you see them, shoot to kill!

    1. FugginMorons says:

      Awesome!!! Because we totally want policemen killing people at will without any sort of Due Process! Stupid 7th and 8th Amendments!

  11. SeanP2500 says:

    RIght on very true….very very true…after you shoot ole poor John’s head off then you really can’t expect any less from the populace now can you…

  12. Jane says:

    Who is buying the copper? Those are the people we need to focus on. Is the copper ending up at a company? Is it going overseas? Where is it going?

  13. HEAVY METAL says:

    none of this could occur without metal recyclers willingly accepting power lines, manhole covers, etc., metal that’s OBVIOUSLY stolen. perhaps some undercover “sting” operations should go on in this area, instead of worrying about kids running lemonade stands or someone with a bag of pot. guess it’s all about “priorities.”

  14. shari says:

    people caught stealing copper and other metals should face much higher sentences when caught.

    1. Karl Menger says:

      Yea!!! More people in JAIL for A LOT longer!!!
      Whoo hooo!!

      That’ll fix it! More tax money spent on prisoners!!! Whoo hooo!!
      Round em up boys!!

  15. cberry says:

    “How about if you see them, shoot to kill!”

    The theives or the cops?

  16. Dudefella says:

    Seriously….they have to sell this somewhere. Can the metal recyclers not call the police when someone rolls in there with a ton of copper?

  17. TStewart says:

    Why the heck are we lighting 33 miles of highway in the first place? Cars have headlights. Think of the energy that is “wasted”!

    1. fws says:

      I often wondered that myself. What a waste of energy and taxpayer dollars. Are drivers such wusses they have to have a lighted arena to drive?

  18. NaniB says:

    I read someplace that alot of the stolen stuff ends up on containers bound for China and since it doesn’t go through the normal recycle channel it doesn’t get reported. I don’t know how factual that is, but that would explain why stolen stuff never shows up in our recycle yards where it could be traced back to the thief.

  19. Harry the Horrible says:

    Welcome to the Third World, folks.
    How’s that “hope and change” thing going for you?

  20. Jason says:

    “Seriously….they have to sell this somewhere. Can the metal recyclers not call the police when someone rolls in there with a ton of copper?’

    Uhm, Dude, did you not see the part in the article where any recyclers within 100 miles of a copper theft will be notified?

    In any event, copper theft is nothing new. In the old days, people would actually steal copper plumbing parts from underneath homes that had crawl spaces.

  21. Jason says:

    And if I see anyone attempting to steal copper from my business, they’ll be as good as DRT: dead right there.

  22. John McCombs says:

    The governments (fed, state, local) could stop this if they wanted to by cutting off the market. Maybe they could consider it terrorism. Shut the doors of the buyers and send them to Guantanamo without bail. We’d never hear of stories like this again. /s

    1. Htos1 says:

      It’s terrorism and white guys are doing it!

  23. chowthen says:

    They have to sell it somewhere??? All they have to do is to melt the copper and make it into bullion then sell it to wholesalers. Besides these recyclers why do you think they’ll report to the cops when they can make money of it? The one who said it’s the price of copper that’s going up is the cause of these theft is correct this can be seen in the price of ammunition on the rise because of the brass casing which are copper based.

  24. dunce says:

    They are not common thieves, they are ecological saviors of turtles that get confused the lights with the moon. Cars have their own lights so they are reducing our carbon footprint by turning the unneeded lights off and they are redistributing wealth for obama.

  25. rjh says:

    In 1973, when I was stationed at Clark AB in the Philippines, a major problem was the locals sneaking on to the base and stealing the heavy duty copper power and communication cables. It appears that we have allowed enough third world individuals into the country to have finally achieved third world status. Our affirmative action President wants to allow more of these people in just so he can be reelected. How’s that working out for you obama voters?

    1. sailordude says:

      LOL, I forgot about that! You are correct! They had us post watch on my ship to guard against brass fire fittings being stolen by Chinese while anchored in Hong Kong!

      BTW vote out Obama people, it’s really really bad since he took over.

      1. Just Jake from Texas says:

        Oh, my, I did that too stand watch on the fo’c’sle of the USS Chicago so the locals couldn’t steal the brass fittings.
        And this was also in Hong Kong.:-)
        Of course the M-1 was not loaded, sheesh. Lotta good that did.


  26. sailordude says:

    I hope the penalty for this is EXCESSIVE!

    1. joe says:

      We never hear about that. The news stations do not report what the penalties are. If they are severe and reported it could help the problem.

  27. mojokabobo says:

    Ok, lawlessness and hating on the thieves and all those things aside…

    I gotta appreciate the balls of these guys. The report wasn’t specific about how exactly they were able to steal 33 miles worth of copper wiring off of the interstate, but I imagine that they did it in broad daylight! They were probably parked right alongside the road, probably wearing bright orange road work vests, digging up the wire with who knows what tools, while thousands of people drove right by them!

    I don’t care who you are, that’s ballsy and I gotta laugh about that.

  28. James says:

    As an experienced electrician, I can’t fathom how the thieves are getting the copper wire out of high voltage lines without getting killed. You can’t just go up and cut those wires without protective gear and a hot stick.

    1. Susan See says:

      I’m thinking that it isn’t just a group of unorganized illegals doing this. There is plenty of drug money out there to use trained, expendable, people who are willing to do this for a cut. And they don’t have to find a buyer. Remember the World Trade Center; they were highly intelligent, had plenty of money, and were fanatics. These people are poor, and willing to do anything. The millions of illegals we have allowed into our country are turning it into a third world ghetto.

    2. Kevin says:

      It appears word about how to properly protect yourself has gotten around. They said its 400 volts, so its not really high voltage. As you said, with the proper gloves and protection it is possible. Perhaps a few out of work electricians, or apprentices are behind some of this. Personally, I’d look for a way to short it out, til it blows a trip.

  29. thegoat1970 says:

    chupacabra on the loose…

  30. GozieBoy says:

    Most interstates that I drive at night are in the dark … because it’s NIGHT TIME you idiots!

  31. SgtGideonsDad says:

    In order to have a Third World, the place has to start looking like one,
    and I say the Third Worlders, who have invaded are getting a good
    start….diversity is our strength.

  32. smashicus says:

    These thieves sound like they know what they’re doing, otherwise we would have found some crispy critters along the highway. I hope they will entertain us at some point when they win a Darwin Award.

  33. Susan See says:

    I wish all the ignorant people who blame one man for everything that happens in this country of over 300 million people would realize how stupid they sound and find something constructive to say. Why don’t you blame your local selectmen, or the mayor, or the governor, or your congressman, or the police? and stop wasting my time wading through all your rubbish.

    1. Karl Menger says:

      Stop reading the comments?

  34. Susan See says:

    It occurs to me that snipers might find these people a target. That’s my fear. When people get mad enough they do things they shouldn’t. I mean we have all those military snipers that have recent experience in two wars.

  35. J.V. says:

    I would prefer a tamper deterrent that provides them with the 400V when they would least expect it. Catches the thief, penalizes the thief, and ensures that the crime will not be perpetrated by that thief again.

  36. WP says:

    This is an inside job – its someone who worked or is working for the utility company – too funny They probably melt it into an ingot and sell it. Book em Danno……..hahahhaha

  37. Kevin says:

    Just wire the access cover to be live, and you’ll find out who’s behind all of this. It’ll only take a few poles wired that way to get the rest of the thieves to find another line of thievery.

  38. Craig says:

    The true socialist answer to this is to subsidize the copper mining industry to drive down the market price of copper. About as smart as killing off milk cows if the cost of a gallon of 2% milk drops too low.

  39. gringo says:

    America has become a sad, sad place. It all looks like it will get worse, and there’s no way back.

  40. Htos1 says:

    JUSSSTTT doing the job Americans won’t do.

  41. Tom Davidson says:

    But they’re just being ‘green’ and recycling …/sarc off

  42. Jason says:

    What a load of disinformation this article provides. 400 volts won’t instantly kill you. It hurts like hell but won’t fry you instantly. The higher the voltage the lower the current. Do Floridians not have headlights on there cars? OMG NO Street lights. Come to PA and drive around. you’ll drive 50 miles without a street lamp.

    1. Amish says:

      That’s why we don’t live in PA, among about 100 other reasons.I mean parts of the state just got flush toilets and touch tone phones!

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