With copper selling at approximately $4 per pound, copper crimes are surging again in the Bay Area.
A large copper theft means a half-mile stretch of San Leandro's MacArthur Boulevard is in the dark. It's a commercial strip between Bridge Street and Dutton Avenue.
Lt. Jeff Tudor with San Leandro police says about 10,000 feet of underground wire was pulled from beneath the street in the middle of the night.
"Copper wire theft is obviously very popular for recycling the copper," said Tudor. "Thieves are getting very creative, finding ways where copper is located and removing it. You've got everything from light poles to the top of the roofs to anywhere that they can find it, they're finding ways to access it."
It's not unlike the copper crimes that have occurred in many Bay Area cities as the price of the metal continues to climb. But it's also putting many local governments in a bind.
"That's the times we're living in. I don't think people are really educated on how to go about it the right way," said Kelly Stewart of San Leandro. "Everybody's at a point where they're just desperate and they're doing whatever they have to do – they risk their lives, even their families. That's the way people are thinking. People feel like their backs are against the wall."
In San Leandro, the estimated cost of replacement is about $16,000, plus several thousand dollars more for some new security measures like locks for street light covers.
Besides the obvious legal issues involved, stealing copper from a street lighting system is not a safe thing to do. In this case, the thieves were lucky they weren't electrocuted.