SALT LAKE CITY – Miles of copper wire has been stolen from a stretch of Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City and Utah Department of Transportation officials are asking for the public's help in preventing future thefts.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason says thieves stripped copper wire from a mile-long section of lighting along I-15.
The wire was believed to be taken in the early morning hours some time last week and Gleason believes that the thieves went undetected by passing motorists and Utah Highway Patrol units because they disguised themselves as construction crews.
Gleason says that the wire was taken from 11 light poles between 1000 North and 1800 North in Salt Lake City, for a total of 30-35,000 feet of copper wire, which will cost an estimated $50-60,000 in taxpayer money to replace.
Copper wire theft has become more of a problem in the last few years, Gleason says, and this incident is the largest single case of copper wire theft in UDOT history.
"Thieves are getting rich off the copper wire. They turn it into metal recyclers and get about 3 dollars per pound. It's turning into big business and the real victim is you and me the taxpayer," Gleason said.
UDOT is taking steps to prevent future wire thefts, including hiding junction boxes like the ones the thieves broke into and using aluminum, which is a cheaper alternative to copper.
Gleason says that if anyone sees suspicious activity, they should notify officials.
"If they're driving by, even if they see what looks like normal work after hours, call UDOT and we'll let them know if there is work in that area," Gleason said.
Anyone with information about this or other copper wire theft is asked to contact police.