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Norman taxpayers on the hook for estimated $30,000 after suspected copper thieves strike light poles

NORMAN, Okla. - City officials say its own coffers will have to foot the bill, turning the lights back on along a stretch of Tecumseh Road after suspected copper thieves tried to take off with copper wiring earlier this week.

Norman Police and the Public Works Department are investigating the incident which happened some time Tuesday morning. Public works officials say they were notified something was wrong with the system shortly before 7:00 a.m.

"They did stop before they removed very much," said Norman Public Works Director Shawn O'Leary Friday afternoon. "But unfortunately, they did a whole lot of damage before they stopped.”

Damage that has left a portion of Tecumseh Rd., on both sides of Interstate 35, without functioning street lights; traffic signals were also damaged, but have since been brought back online. O'Leary says estimates will be roughly $30,000 to repair and take at least two weeks to complete.

"We are looking at a real mess to fix," he said. "We have not seen anything of this scale. We’ve certainly not seen anything of this notion of an underground wiring system.”

O'Leary says video from area surveillance and traffic cameras is being reviewed to try and develop any leads as to who might have been behind it, possibly using vehicles that appeared official or similar to a contractor, gaining access to junction boxes for the lighting system and began snipping wires -- albeit carefully, to not be electrocuted.

“We’re assuming that these folks are fairly sophisticated. The average person isn’t going to go inside a junction box and start cutting wires.”

It's believed whoever was doing the damage was spooked by something, or left with the intent to return later and pull the wire from the underground conduit.

Now, Norman Police are asking for the public to keep an eye out and give them a call if they see anything that is suspicious or doesn't look right.