Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

Oklahoma City council talks about solutions to copper theft issue

OKLAHOMA CITY - It's something that has drivers wondering -- who turned out the lights along miles of city streets and highways?

"It's just dramatically increased in the last year. I think we've even noted in some cases reporting that once the wiring's been restored even sometimes it's removed the very next day," OKC Public Works Director Eric Wenger said.

And those copper thieves are doing some major damage.

Huge portions of I-35 and I-40 are on the list of outages caused by copper theft.

OG&E and the city of Oklahoma City are left footing the bill.

"So just in the last six months in the work that we currently have scheduled with OG&E, the city is spending in excess of $200,000 in infrastructure damage like broken boxes,” Wenger said.

OG&E pays another $200,000 for the actual wiring cost.

It's become such a big issue in the past year, Mayor David Holt called his first-ever briefing at Tuesday’s city council meeting to address the problem.

"When you see lights out on the highways for miles and miles and miles, it's because a guy in a truck came by at night and stole those copper wirings, and we're stuck with having to pick up the pieces,” Mayor David Holt said.

Now, the city and OG&E are already are working on a few solutions.

"Replacing wire that was formerly copper with aluminum to deter theft in the future, but also looking into other vandal resistant like boxes that are hardened or other technologies as well,” Wenger said.

And they're asking the public to report any suspicious activity.

"We're combating these copper thieves and we're losing the battle right now, but we're committed. We're not going to give up,” Mayor Holt said.

To report an outage, click here.

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