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July 24, 2014

Police investigate thefts of MDOT wiring

Sources say copper wire thefts reportedly occurred along freeways across the region

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — Warren police are investigating the theft of more than three miles of copper wire in recent weeks that linked street lighting near Mound Road and I-696, maintained by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“It’s the second theft at that location,” Warren Police Detective Greg Booton said July 22. “(MDOT) tells me they’re getting it all over. They got hit for over 100,000 feet at I-75 and Davison, in Detroit.”

Booton said the first theft of wire in Warren apparently took place in mid-June along Mound near the I-696 interchange. He said an MDOT supervisor reported the theft to the Michigan State Police.

Another theft reportedly occurred sometime between July 1 and July 14 at the same location, where wire was again taken by thieves who accessed it by opening manhole covers.

MDOT personnel last worked at the Mound/I-696 interchange on July 1 and later noticed that the wire was missing when they returned for a service call on July 14. The theft affected 14 overhead street lights along northbound and southbound Mound between Frazho and 10 Mile Road, according to a Warren police report.

A total of 18,000 feet of wire was reportedly taken in Warren.

The material, described as thick copper wire used to time the illumination of overhead street lighting after dark, was reportedly pulled from an underground conduit by thieves who may have posed as service crews, possibly with vehicles that resembled MDOT work trucks.

Booton said an MDOT supervisor reported that crews typically work only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. and that anyone working outside of that time window was either doing emergency repair service or stealing wire.  MDOT work personnel are also required to wear ID badges.

MDOT spokesperson Diane Cross said thefts of copper wiring had been reported along other freeways across metro Detroit in recent months and remained an ongoing problem.

“These are not logical people that are doing this,” Cross said. “The money and manpower costs of these thefts affects our ability to keep freeway lights on.  We could use this funding for other maintenance work like pothole repair, litter pick up, grass cutting,  etc.

 “While different types of funding goes into and out of different 'pots of money', it all ultimately comes out of road funding. And that affects the roads of everyone,” Cross said.

Motorists were urged to contact law enforcement if they viewed suspicious activity along MDOT roads after normal work hours.

“Call 911 with anything suspicious,” Booton said. “It’s costing me and you. It’s taxpayer money.”

Call Staff Writer Brian Louwers at (586) 498-1089.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.