Thieves are stealing copper from Fort Worth street lights almost daily, forcing the city to appoint a full-time crew to repair the damage at a high cost to taxpayers, city officials say.
"These people appear to be doing this in broad daylight,” said Fort Worth traffic services manager Mark Mathis. “They've hit us in locations twice and several times."
The thefts started skyrocketing late last year and haven’t stopped, he said. The city estimates copper thieves are costing the city three times as much as last year.
"We're having to dedicate a crew to it,” Mathis said. “We can't do the kind of repairs and serve the citizens the way we'd like to because we're chasing their damage."
But while the criminals get pennies on the dollar selling the copper at scrap yards, the city has to pay full price to replace it.
Mathis estimated copper thefts have cost the city $110,000 since October.
Fort Worth is fighting back with signs that warn, “Wire theft is a crime. Call 911 to report suspicious activity.”
Some people don’t suspect anything because thieves wear hard hats and orange vests and appear to do real work.
Mathis said city crews generally use bigger trucks that are marked with the city logo or the name of a contractor.
The city also is replacing some of the copper wiring with aluminum, which is a lot less valuable to resell, Mathis said.
But he added that it's not a perfect solution, either.
"We have had cases where they've cut the aluminum wires, started to pull it out, realized what they had and left it, so we're still going back and having to repair it," he said.