Copper Thieves Are Keeping Drivers in the Dark: TxDOT

Copper thieves are keeping drivers in the dark.

In the Texas Department of Transportation's Fort Worth District, for example, thieves stole approximately 175,000 linear feet of copper wiring from light poles over interstates and state highways in 2014.

That amounts to more than 33 miles of wire. Laid out from end-to-end, that wire would stretch from Fort Worth to Dallas.

"Copper theft is very much a safety issue," said Val Lopez, a TxDOT Public Information Officer. "What it does is it makes driving at night less safe because those street lights have been disabled by that theft."

In addition to overhead lights, several cameras in TxDOT's network of traffic cameras, used to monitor highway safety conditions, have been disabled due to copper thefts.

In all, the thefts cost Texas taxpayers approximately $600,000 in repairs and re-installations in 2014, according to Lopez.

In response, TxDOT has identified a more permanent security solution that will prevent thieves from cutting into the poles to get at the wires. But it will not be able to be fully installed until the new year, Lopez told NBCDFW.

In the meantime, Lopez asked that drivers be aware that any unmarked vehicle pulled onto the shoulder or median, in the area of a light pole, could be a potential thief.

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