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Copper thefts causing safety issue on Oklahoma highways

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OKLAHOMA CITY - If you take I-40 near downtown Oklahoma City, or drive along the west end of OKC Boulevard at night, you may notice your drive is a little darker.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation told NewsChannel 4 multiple stretches of lights are out because thieves have stolen the copper wiring.

"It is very frustrating to be needing to repair lights that were put onto a relatively new stretch of I-40 cross town," ODOT Spokesperson Brenda Perry said.

ODOT is doing the repairs which will ultimately eat up taxpayer dollars.

"Even though I don't have an exact dollar estimate of that, it is a substantial cost to us," Perry said.

Oklahoma City officials estimate copper theft from street lights costs the city up to $5,000 a year.

Crooks are stealing the metal, hoping to make some quick cash at recycle and scrap metal shops.

Though it is an ongoing issue, police said copper theft has been on the decline due to falling prices and businesses asking tougher questions before buying.

If the criminals do get away with selling the copper from the street lights it is not only costing money, but safety.

"It's unfortunate that this theft takes place. We are going to be repairing these lights and also adding some safety features and equipment that will hopefully deter future problems with this," Perry said.

After ODOT completes the repairs and highway project the maintenance will be handed over to the city.