Thieves are giving Pierce County road crews and taxpayers headaches by helping themselves to street-light wiring.
Crews recently replaced the wiring that powers six street lights along a half-mile of county road at 38th Avenue and 192nd Street in Frederickson after two incidents the same week in which wire was stolen.
The repair work cost the county $8,865 in materials, equipment and labor.
Officials said a county signal technician discovered the first theft on June 19 during a routine maintenance inspection of county street lighting. The lids of the junction boxes that hold each light’s wiring had been unbolted, and 3,000 feet of wire had been removed.
On June 20 -21, workers replaced most of the wiring and welded the lids closed on most of the junction boxes to secure them. The work cost cost the county $6,701, officials said.
When crews returned June 22 to finish the rewiring and welding, they discovered that 1,200 feet of new wire that had been installed the day before had also been stolen. Crews replaced that wiring and welded the lids of the remaining junction boxes that day. Cost: $2,164.
The county Sheriff Department is investigating the thefts. Anyone with information can contact the Tacoma/Pierce County Crime Stoppers at (253) 591-5959. Tipsters can remain anonymous, officials said.
They can also call the Sheriff Department’s non-emergency number at (253) 798-4721 to report any information about the crimes.
Over the past few years, the county has begun welding the lids of junction boxes along stretches of street lights due to periodic wire thefts. Although it makes it more difficult to access the boxes to perform maintenance activities, the welding has helped reduce the number of thefts like the ones in June, which officials said were the first in the past five years.
The public’s safety is compromised by the wiring thefts, officials noted.
“Street lighting helps keep our county roads safe,” said Rick Butner, traffic operations supervisor. “We ask that the community call our 24-hour number (253-531-6990) if they notice multiple street lights are out, as this could indicate wire theft. And if you see suspicious activity around light poles or other county facilities, we encourage you to call 9-1-1.”
The county is putting stickers on county-owned light poles that include the light’s identification number and the phone number for Traffic Operations. The 24-hour number can also be used to report traffic signal problems and downed roadway signs.