Surge in copper wire theft prompts councilmembers to call for creation of LAPD task force, crackdown

Eric Resendiz Image
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
LA councilmembers call for crackdown on copper wire theft
Two Los Angeles City Council members are calling for the creation of a police task force to crackdown on copper wire thefts.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Two Los Angeles City Council members are calling for the creation of a police task force to crackdown on copper wire thefts that have impacted neighborhoods throughout the city.

Council Members Kevin de León and Traci Park held a joint news conference Tuesday morning at the 6th Street Viaduct, which connects Boyle Heights and downtown L.A.'s Arts District.

Some 38,000 feet of copper wire, the equivalent of just over 7 miles in length, have been stripped and stolen from the bridge, according to officials. The cost of those repairs is expected to surpass $2.5 million.

"This is not just a petty theft crime," Park said at the news conference. "These criminals are creating public safety issues that impact crime, traffic, pedestrian safety."

The widespread thefts have cost the city millions of dollars in infrastructure repair and left thousands of street lights in the dark, including parts of the 6th Street bridge, officials say.

"We've seen young folks steal copper wire," de León said. "We've seen unhoused folks steal copper wire. We've seen folks who may or may not be contractors wearing vests -- official-looking vests."

De León and Traci Park were expected to introduce their proposal at the City Council's meeting on Tuesday.

Portion of 6th Street Bridge goes dark after thieves steal copper wires

City officials said they're unsure when the copper wires were stolen but said they first noticed the thefts about two weeks ago.

The creation of the proposed police task force would cos the city an estimated $400,000 to start. A proposed reward program would encourage people to report such thefts.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, thieves often cash in by selling the stolen copper at recycling centers.

"We'll be looking into the receivers, the individuals or businesses that potentially are receiving these stolen items," LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Oreb said.

City officials say nearly 4,000 inoperable lights have been identified in Boyle Heights and surrounding neighborhoods due to copper wire theft.

In 2023, there were more than 6,000 such incidents reported citywide, with repair costs exceeding $17 million, according to the city's bureau of Street Lighting.