Copper Theft Leaves Douglas Bridge Dark

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Copper thieves will end up costing Wichita tax payers.

Police say it will cost thousands of dollars to repair damage caused by someone who stole copper wiring from a downtown Wichita bridge.

Sometime between Friday morning and Tuesday morning, someone stripped copper wiring out of a street light on the Douglas Street bridge over the Arkansas River.

Wichita Police say whoever stole the copper wiring created a safety issue and a new expense for Wichita tax payers.

"It's pennies on the dollar compared to what it costs to actually replace it and put that street light back in a good working order," said Wichita Police Lt. Doug Nolte.

He estimates it will cost the city $5,000 to repair the damage done when the wiring was stripped from the light. That is likely much more money than the thief or thieves made, Nolte said.

"The copper, the wiring that they're after probably is not worth $5,000," he said. "It's probably worth a couple hundred dollars, but somebody's got to string and re-wire that and that's taxpayer money."

The wire theft rendered all lights on the bridge useless and the area dark. Ben Nelson with the City of Wichita's public works department does not know yet how long it will take to get the lights back on or just what the final price tag will be.

Nolte said theft of copper from Wichita city property has not been a widespread problem, but he said everybody should keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

"(We) really need to be proactive in watching and making sure that the people that are working on street lights belong there," he said.

Nolte added that means reporting to police anything that looks out-of-place.

"We tell people that it's okay to call 911 and err on the side of being wrong," he said. "Simply because that gives us the opportunity to go out there and investigate."

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