PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — During times of uncertainty, investors will often look to commodities like gold and silver.

Apparently, so do crooks.

There have been at least 12 thefts in recent weeks involving copper wiring being pulled from street-light poles across the city, with the most recent occurring north of Wilshire Boulevard, said Sgt. Jay Moroso, spokesman for the Santa Monica Police Department.

The thefts have not only left streets dark. They have also cost taxpayers roughly $25,000, not including labor costs to re-install the wiring.

“The copper taken from these light poles is substantial in size and cost,” Moroso said. “The crime is somewhat physically demanding due to the fact that several feet of wire have to be pulled from the fixture. When the wire is pulled, the street lights no longer function.”

The thieves have struck in the early morning hours when most residents are asleep.

Copper thefts are not uncommon. A Google search will bring up dozens of news articles about thieves climbing into government buildings to tear out wires or hitting abandoned buildings to snag copper pipes. They then visit recycling yards and offload their bounty.

As of Thursday, high-grade copper was trading at $3.23 a pound. The Santa Monica Recycling Center accepts copper and pays out depending on whether or not the metal is clean or dirty, if it is encased or is merely tubing.

A Daily Press reader said copper wiring was ripped out of light posts along Yale Street last week and earlier this week copper was removed from street lights along 17th Street from Montana Avenue “all the way north.”

Moroso encouraged the public to report any suspicious activity around street lights, particularly at night. The police should also be called if anyone notices street lights out that were working earlier.

“City employees working on lights will be in clearly marked city of Santa Monica utility uniforms and will be driving city of Santa Monica maintenance trucks that will be marked as such,” Moroso said.

Anyone who believes they have seen something suspicious should call the SMPD Communications Center at (310) 458-8495. Anyone with information on the copper thefts mentioned in this article should contact Detective Vince Gamache at (310) 458-8979.

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