Thieves strip wiring out of bike path lights

Thieves strip wiring out of bike path lights
Thieves stole wire from the East Bank bicycle/pedestrian trail light system in September 2008.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Thieves stole 700 feet of copper wire from lights along the bike path between Marist High School and Valley River Center, doing an estimated $10,000 in damage.

Police think the theft and damage occured Sept. 26.

Thieves pried open seven junction boxes and pulled out the wire.

Wire thieves steal the metal to sell to scrap recyclers. Recyclers are not required to pay by check or insist upon an address. Victims of metal theft like the Eugene Water and Electric Board would to see the law changed.

"The metal recyclers would have to pay with a check and it would have to go to a specific address," explained Lance Robertson with EWEB. "So that cuts down on this stealing by folks who might be transients who are really just trying to get money for drugs or other kinds of things."

In recent months, metal thieves:

  • Cut off phone service to 800 Eugene homes and businesses | STORY
  • Sparked a house fire | STORY 
  • Stolen catalytic converters off parked cars | STORY
  • Done $30,000 in damage to a business to get $30 worth of metal | STORY

Rod Blomberg tracked down the thieves who stripped wire out of the machinery at his Astro Enterprises Research and Development shop.

Police arrested one homeless man, who was cited for theft but released from custody without having to post bail.

Catalytic converters in cars are another target, even in parking lots that are under surveillance, like at Grain Millers in the Whitaker neighborhood of Eugene.

Managers and employees there, who have caught thieves on video tape and even posted private security, want more police presence or a faster response.

Melinda Kletzok with the Eugene police department told KVAL news response is related to staffing levels. | STORY

"The police will respond and be as proactive as they can given the staffing levels," she said earlier this month.

In the case of Friday's theft of copper wire from the bike path lights, the public may not even be bothering to report the crimes to police.

According to Eugene police, while an officer was investigating the theft, people told the officer they had noticed the damage to the boxes and cut wire over the weekend.

Police received no reports over the weekend, according to Melinda Kletzok with Eugene police.

"Police want the public to call 911 when they notice suspicious circumstances such as this because it may help prevent or lead to the capture of copper wire thieves," Kletzok wrote in a press release.

What do you make of wire theft? Any tips for preventing the crimes? Sign up to comment.