The San Jose Mercury News is reporting the thieves are at fault for many traffic jams because they tear out valuable copper wiring that powers metering lights and traffic signals and even making streetlights dark -- making it incredibly dangerous for pedestrians and drivers. Some metering lights in the South Bay have been out for two weeks.
People are stealing the copper for the money. It has gone for as much as $4 a pound at salvage yards. That's nearly triple the price it was four years ago, but a new law this year may deter thieves.
The Mercury News reports the law will increase penalties for thieves and for recyclers who receive the material conviction on felony charges can bring up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Over the last year in the Bay Area alone -- vandals have stolen copper from 59 meters. Caltrans so far has replaced the wiring at only 18 meters. It takes three to four months to make repairs and the fix or replacement costs $35,000 per meter.
Caltrans is now using less valuable, less appealing aluminum wire instead of copper and moving equipment and burying pull boxes in hopes of making it too difficult for thieves to access the wiring.