MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade County has taken another big step in its crackdown on copper wire thefts and street light vandalism which have left South Florida drivers and neighborhoods in the dark.

The Miami-Dade Commission has passed an ordinance creating a task force on scrap metal and copper wire theft.

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The legislation, sponsored by Vice Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson, stipulates that the new task force will formulate recommendations to the Board on the enforcement of ordinances regulating junk dealers and scrap metal processors.

According to the ordinance, skyrocketing prices for metals, especially copper, have resulted in a significant increase in the theft of copper, aluminum, and other ferrous and nonferrous metal material in Miami-Dade County. Such thefts include metal materials from light poles, which create power outages and endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public particularly the elderly and children.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), 30 lights along I-95 between NW 30th and 79th Streets have been targeted in the past year. This has become economically burdensome to Miami-Dade since the County is required to pay to repair the stolen or vandalized street lights it owns. It costs approximately $1,000 to $1,500 to fix each damaged pole.

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It’s also extremely unsafe.

Broken street lights stripped of copper wiring were a factor in the recent death of 52-year-old Thelma Morrow who was struck by a car while crossing NW 7th Avenue and 59th Street by a driver who was unable to see her on the dark road.

The proposed task force will formulate recommendations on enforcing and amending ordinances regulating junk dealers and scrap metal processors, as well as educate businesses and the community on the effects of such ordinances. The task force will be comprised of 21 members appointed by the Miami-Dade Commission, various municipalities and Miami-Dade department heads, the League of Cities, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Florida Power & Light, and residents.

“This isn’t just petty vandalism we’re talking about. Someone has died because of copper wire theft,” said Vice Chairwoman Edmonson. “Public property is damaged or destroyed for the sole purpose of criminals lining their pockets by selling illegally acquired materials. This task force will work together with our local scrap dealers and processors to educate them on the ramifications of accepting stolen metals. We want legitimate scrap dealers to stay in business and contribute to the County’s economy.”

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If you have information about copper wire crimes, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477). Calls can remain anonymous.