Copper wire thieves target light poles along NW Indiana expressways

Thousands of feet of copper wire have been stolen from expressway lights in northwest Indiana, endangering drivers traveling in the dark.

On Wednesday, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation announced that they are joining forces to crack down on the copper thieves.

"What we think is happening is they're taking the wire and they're melting off the plastic seal and taking it just for the copper," said Doug Moats, an INDOT spokesman.

And this is not the first time. In 2013, two people were convicted in connection to the copper wire thefts and they are still in prison.

However, roadways began going dark in August. The brazen thieves have primarily targeted lights along I-80/94, costing the state more than $100,000.

"Most importantly, the safety for the people, even safety for the thieves. Maybe they don't know they can be electrocuted by going into the boxes," said 1st Sgt. Terrance Weems, of the Indiana State Police.

The thieves sometimes try to look like INDOT workers and usually strike at night, investigators said.

Nearly 100 light poles have been targeted. Thieves remove the panel cover at the base, pull out the copper wire and then sell it to scrappers.

Police have reached out to recycling and salvage yards to try to catch the crooks.

They're also monitoring highway security cameras, adding patrols and using what they're calling new technology to stop the thefts.

But officials said that the biggest help will come from the public.

"If you see someone out there and it's dark, that's when you definitely have to call," said Matt Deitchley, an INDOT spokesman.
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