Police report a spike in copper thefts ranging from underground light wiring to manhole covers

Manhole cover thefts emerge, bewildering police

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Police say thieves are hitting Bakersfield hard with copper thefts ranging from underground wiring for street lights to manhole covers.

While copper wire theft comes in waves, stolen manhole covers are a new problem.

"Over a month or two we've lost 30-40 of those," said BPD Sgt. John Blunt.

And manhole or sewer covers are not cheap or easy to replace.

"With some of the manhole covers that have been stolen, some are 70, 80, 100 years old and they don't make them anymore. And they are oddball sizes so now we have to rebuild the whole manhole cover," said Public Works Director Raul Rojas.

Thieves have struck city parks all over Bakersfield---ripping out irrigation controls and wiring for park lights.

"They might get ten to twenty dollars for the little bit of copper wire from us but it costs us thousands to repair," said Bakersfield Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover.

Rojas said in the last six months, the thefts have cost the city nearly $150,000 in damages.

Not only is it expensive, but dangerous.

"When thieves pull out copper wiring from street lights they'll make a whole street go dark when they cut the wires for street lights," said Rojas.

Underground holes for copper wiring can be up to 10 feet deep.

"We've had a couple people who've fallen into the holes and received minor injuries because the lids have been removed," said Blunt.

Rojas said if thieves steal manhole covers off the street, there can also be vehicle accidents.

Rojas said thieves are using the cover of night to commit most copper thefts.

If you see someone loitering around manholes, near street lights or street light covers, please call the police.

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