FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – State Police and INDOT are asking for the public’s help in catching suspects they say are compromising public safety on the interstate. Authorities say thieves are stealing copper wire from lights around I-69 and U.S. 30. The crimes not only make sections of the interstate darker, but expensive repairs are costing taxpayers money.
Since June of 2013, police say the thieves have broken into panels and cut copper wires out of eight different locations across Allen and DeKalb Counties. Much of the time, authorities think the suspects are working in broad daylight, posing as a professional crew working on the lights.
State authorities ask drivers to call 911 immediately if they notice anyone, even a professional-looking crew, near interstate or highway lights.
Officers wouldn’t outline exactly how much it has cost the state to repair the lighting, but said the total is in the thousands.
“We can safely say it’s a substantial amount of money,” said Gary Gerardot, master trooper with the Indiana State Police. “What they’ll do is they’ll cut the wires and pull them, but they’re usually doing two or three or four lights.”
According to INDOT, one light post has 900 feet of line in it. A representative at an area recycling center said this sort of copper could go for almost two dollars a pound.
Because of the lethal level of voltage, police think the suspects know what they’re doing.
“These lines are live, 220 volts. It will kill you on the spot,” Gerardot said.
Northeast Indiana isn’t the only location for the crime spree. Authorities say copper thieves have targeted interstate lighting across the country.