St. Paul Public Works crews continue to make repairs to broken street lights after thieves rip out valuable copper wire.

The Public Works Department estimates that copper wire thefts just last year cost $295,000 when factoring in labor, equipment and materials needed to replace the stolen wire. In 2020, those same repair costs were $105,000.

“It has become a growing issue and we’ve seen a real uptick in wire theft from city street lights,” said Lisa Hiebert, a spokesperson for St. Paul Public Works.

Stretches of St. Paul’s Phalen Boulevard continue to see street lights that repeatedly have copper wires ripped out of them, but the crimes have been reported in other neighborhoods as well.

“It’s becoming a hassle,” said Hervin Smith, who lives around the Phalen Boulevard area. “I travel with my family a lot, it’s ridiculous, people steal copper wire for what, a little bit a change.”

The warmer-than-normal weather this winter hasn’t helped deter theft, according to Public Works.

“We kind of get a little bit of a reprieve during the winter months with the wire is more frozen, the conduit being more frozen. This winter, we’re not getting a reprieve, we’re continuing to have wire theft,” Hiebert said.

Wire theft is not random but often organized and coordinated with people even wearing vests and putting out cones, according to the St. Paul Public Works website.

If you see anyone “working” on street lights during any time of the day or night and there is not a city of St. Paul vehicle near the site, city officials ask that you report the location and activity to the St. Paul Police Department at 651-291-1111.

The St. Paul Public Works Department has been leaving lights energized during the day in hopes of trying to deter thieves from stopping at a light pole.

Read more: Warmer weather keeps copper wire crooks busy; St. Paul asks for community help

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