Copper thefts targeting highway street lights have left sections of Interstate 65 and Interstate 70 dark.
The thieves are stripping out the copper wire in the lights used to conduct electricity.
Roads near Crawfordsville just west of Indianapolis and the surrounding area have been hit the hardest. Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Debbie Calder says more than 90 highway poles have been damaged in the district alone.
“The safety concern is not only for the thieves because they are cutting live electrical wires, but it is also a safety concern for the motoring public because where we have these areas lit, there taking the wiring out its causing the parking lots of our rest areas to be dark the on and off ramps to not have highway lighting,” she says.
Calder says the thieves have been stealing the copper and selling it for cash at local scrap yards.
Joe Driscol, owner operator of Joey’s Enterprises a junk and scrap yard in nearby Linden, says he gets calls from people wanting to sell copper to him every day.
“I get people and when I tell them I have to fingerprint them and take pictures of them with material and have a copy of their driver license – they just hang up,” he says. “Now that just tells you they don’t want nothing to do with getting caught with it.”
The money made from selling stolen copper is just a fraction of the costs of replacing it. While scrapped copper sells for about $1.25 a pound, the cost of repairing a single highway lighting pole is more than $2,000.
Last year, copper thefts topped $1 billion nationally.