Copper thieves vandalize Albany street lights - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Copper thieves vandalize Albany street lights

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March 7, 2006

Albany--Thieves are taking desperate measures to get their hands on a metal in high demand and you're paying the price.

Water, Gas, and Light crews can't keep up with needed repairs to street lights.

Light crews are extra busy lately. "Most of us put in a sixty to seventy hours per week just to keep these lights burning," says light technician, Chris Cates.

"We've replaced the same three or four lights six times in the past two months" says Jimmy Norman, WG&L light superintendent. Theives are vandalizing lights throughout the city, but the reason might surprise you.

"Right there is what everybody's getting," says Norman. That something is copper, a metal in high demand, and easily found and stolen from street lights.

"They'll cut it off as close as they can reach to the ground, and as high as they can reach, and just take that little piece of copper out and just roll it up, just take it and sell it," says Norman.

"Our aluminum poles they'll push them over and cut the wire, pull all the copper out," says Michael Whatley, a WG&L light technician.

As long copper sells for nearly two dollars a pound, crews says they will stay busy.

"We have to go back to the same poles each and every day just about, a different week," says Whatley.

"You just do whatever you got to do to get the lights on," says Cates.

But it's not easy, not everyone wants these workers fixing the lights to begin with.

"Told me that if we kept fixing the lights we'll start shooting trucks instead of lights," says Norman.

"It's the world that we live in now," says light technician Chris Cates.

Cates is surprised how some people are taking desperate measures to make a fast buck.

"My generation and the generation before me was raised differently than the generation now," says Cates.

As crews work hard to keep the lights burning, they have a message to all the copper pirates out there.

"It's just a matter of time before we catch the people that are doing it," say Whatley.

Stealing copper isn't the only problem. Workers say drug dealers and gang members shoot out lights so it's harder to see them commit crimes.

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