High copper prices bring back metal thieves in Mission

Copper wire is being targeted by thieves again.

Copper wire is being targeted by thieves again.

A resurgence of metal theft has resulted in $10,000 damage to three district streetlights.

The thieves have been prying the covers off the bottom of streetlights and stealing the copper wire inside, said the district’s operations manager, Matt Dunham.

Two weeks ago, one pole was damaged on Bodner Terrace near Dewdney Trunk and another on Neale Drive and Tunbridge Avenue.

Last weekend, a pole at Briskham Street and the Cedar Valley Connector was also hit.

“The price of copper is back up to $2.50 a pound, so they’re back at it again,” said Dunham.

Thieves hit 35 poles in 2007 when scrap metal copper prices provided a market for the illegal activity. It cost the district $70,000 to install new wiring and weld special steel plates that made access more difficult.

Dunham said the district first found out about the thefts recently because Mission Fire/Rescue Service has been called numerous times to the railway bridge by the Fraser River for visible black smoke, caused by thieves melting the casing off the wire to more easily access the copper.

“It’s hard for the police to even trace it back to where this wire came from,” said Fire Chief Ian Fitzpatrick, adding even when thieves are caught red-handed RCMP can’t do much to prove guilt. Even the ballast and exterior casing of a light overlooking the firehall has been stolen twice this month.

Although residential areas require some stealth, Dunham said the criminals are bolder in the industrial areas.

“They were actually opening the box up, getting a little bit of slack wire and then they’d pull the car right up to it, wrap the wire around the bumper and then take off.”

Dunham said that caused $25,000 damage to the lights, since the force of the car would actually shatter the lights and fittings.

The municipality isn’t the only one getting hit.

Mission RCMP Sgt. Miriam Dickson said thieves cut 100 feet of Telus cable last Thursday, but were interrupted by passersby before they escape.

Three months ago, thieves stole a Telus truck to strip wire from its telecommunication lines from north Stave Lake all the way down to the Mission boundary.

Residents who notice tampering are encouraged to call the RCMP at 604-826-7161. If streetlights are discovered damaged by apparent vandalism or theft, contact the district at 604-820-3700.