Sixth Street Bridge goes dark amid rash of copper thefts

Leanne Suter Image
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Sixth Street Bridge goes dark amid rash of copper thefts
Copper thieves have hit the Sixth Street Bridge again and again, stealing some seven miles of wiring and leaving the span in the dark.

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Sixth Street Bridge was celebrated at its 2022 opening as a new city landmark. At night, artistic lighting gave the span an iconic look, earning the nickname "Ribbon of Light."

But the viaduct is much darker these days.

Copper thieves have hit the bridge again and again, stripping some seven miles of wiring and leaving much of the structure in the dark.

And six months after the city formed a task force to combat the thefts, the problem persists.

Councilman Kevin de León authored the motion to form the task force back in January. Some arrests have been made since then.

That copper probably fetched about $11,000 on the streets for the thieves, the councilman's office says. But it will cost the city some $2 million to replace the wiring and repair the damage.

Once the city makes the repairs, the thieves will likely strike again.

"They're waiting for us to repair them," De León says. "They want us to repair them because every light post to them is an ATM machine. It's pure cash. When we go and repair, what do they do? They go and they steal again."

That's why he says part of the plan calls for hardening the infrastructure to make future thefts more difficult.

Beyond the bridge itself, citywide there were some 6,000 such copper wire thefts reported last year, with repairs estimated at more than $17 million.

The Sixth Street Bridge has been plagued with other problems since it opened in 2022, replacing a long-time structure that was closed in 2016 due to damage and disrepair.

There has been vandalism, street takeovers, illegal fireworks, people performing dangerous stunts, such as climbing the arches and even an incident where a barber cut someone's hair in the middle of lanes.