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Thefts force Manteca to switch to aluminum power wiring

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POSTED May 16, 2014 1:35 a.m.

Copper wire thieves struck Lincoln Park and its baseball field again.

This time the bill for taxpayers came to $8,000 for damages including $3,000 worth of copper wiring that was stolen.

The City of Manteca is now switching to aluminum wiring. Not only does it cost less to replace but thieves get significantly less for it when they go to recycling centers. The move comes after the city suffered copper loses at five other parks as well since January. The parks are Woodward, Morenzone, Shasta, Dutra Northeast and Roberts.

Copper thieves haven’t slowed down despite increased police patrols and tighter copper recycling rules the state imposed on those that purchase used copper.

The primary culprits are the homeless and drug users.

In recent years metal thieves have stolen everything in Manteca from decorative letters  from monument signs at Spreckels Park, manhole covers, and alumni bleachers to stripping the former Turnkey Solutions building in the Manteca Industrial Park of most of its wiring and causing damages to the structure estimated in excess of $500,000 tearing apart false walls and false ceilings in search of copper. A homeless man plunged to his death a few years back while walking across a skylight in search of copper wiring at the shuttered Turnkey Solutions building that opened originally as Indy Electronics and then housed Alphatec.

In one instance in the summer of 2011, thieves driving through a neighborhood under construction saw a fire hydrant that had yet to be connected and tossed it into a truck and drove off. Because police were summoned quickly they were caught in short notice.

Another thief was caught by Union Pacific Railroad Police trying to steal copper from crossing arms as they were activated to warn of an approaching train.

The theft of copper wiring from street lights in Manteca cost taxpayers $50,000 in 2012.

The street light damage caused by copper thieves become so problematic in 2012 that the city started requiring new subdivisions to literally cement over streetlight utility boxes after covering the wires with sand. When city crews need to go back and work on the lights, they will simply chisel away the concrete and then repack the wires in sand and pour cement over that again.

Despite the time and cost involved in such a procedure the city still ends up saving money.

Since copper thieves started multiplying about seven years ago officials estimate Manteca has lost in excess of $240,000 due to copper thieves.

While the city incurs hundreds of dollars in expense each time copper wire is ripped from underground vaults, the thefts barely get a few cents per pound for the copper they steal and recycle.

Copper theft isn’t limited to Manteca.

Caltrans spends $2 million a year replacing copper wiring stolen from metering lights, traffic signals as well as lights along freeways and highways.

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