$2,500 reward offered after string of copper metal thefts in KY

(KBSI) – The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is offering a $2,500 reward after a recent string of copper metal thefts in Louisville left more than 500 poles dark on interstates.

State officials ask the public to help catch the culprits and prevent future theft.

KYTC is offering a $2,500 reward for information that will help lead to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the theft.

“Stealing copper is not a victimless crime,” said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray. “Taxpayers are left holding the bag to pay to replace the stolen wires and repair broken lighting systems. If you see suspicious activity or know of anyone involved in stealing state property, please report it.”

The Department of Highways District 5 office estimates between 45,000-66,000 feet of copper wire, known as #6 AWG, has been stolen from roadway lighting poles and junction boxes along Interstate 64 between Exit 3 and Interstate 264 in addition to eight other interchanges in Louisville: Exit 1 and Exit 3 on I-64; Exits 127, 130, 132, 133 and 134 on Interstate 65; and Exit 4 on I-264.

The stolen wire stops the flow of electricity. It has impacted lighting on an estimated 500 light poles in Louisville.

This activity endangers the public and puts motorists at risk, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The high voltage current in these lines may also electrocute would-be thieves.

The cost to restore power to affected lighting systems will be determined once work begins. However, it is estimated the cost of the wire alone will be between $30,600 to $44,880, plus contractor installation costs.

District 5 Chief District Engineer Matt Bullock says even if thieves only steal a portion of the wire, they have to replace the entire length of the wire within the conduit run because the wire can’t be reconnected.

Kentuckians can contact the following offices with information:

  • Report any information about wire thefts at Kentucky interchanges to the KYTC Office of Inspector General (OIG) Office at 502-330-7506. If your information leads to an arrest and conviction, you may be eligible for the reward.
  • Report active crimes or suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
  • Report dark intersections to the KYTC Traffic Operations Center at 888-FOR-KYTC.

Stealing copper becomes more common during difficult economic times, according to KYTC Office of Inspector General Director Maryellen Mynear.

The public is asked to watch for and report suspicious activity, such as people in unmarked vehicles working near lighting equipment or wire attached to the hitch of a vehicle.

In 2014, 48 copper wire thefts occurred on central Kentucky interstates and parkways. A $2,500 reward was offered by KYTC and the Kentucky State Police for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. A confidential informant provided information which helped authorities identify and arrest the thieves.

Culprits break into lighting systems and junction boxes to pull, cut and strip the wires. They often look to sell the scrap metal to recycling facilities in and out of the state. With damage exceeding $3,000, the thief or thieves could face Class D felony charges. The terms of imprisonment for a Class D felony are not less than five years nor more than 10 years unless otherwise provided in law. State law requires recycling centers to obtain identification of the seller and a certified statement as to the source of the scrap metal to deter theft.

Director Mynear says they are working with recyclers, local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on the illegal sale of stolen wire.

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