The dismantling of infrastructure for small change

For a possible payout of $3.00 per pound, people are hauling ladders out to highways and taking down the electrical wiring.  The highways then go dark.  The thieves sell the copper wiring to a recycler, if they survive.  This is a stark example of the true state of our economy:
“Freeways going dark as thieves steal wiring; one man is electrocuted”
Associated Press, March 6, 2008

A Highway Patrol officer urged the public today to report suspicious activity that could point to thieves removing copper wiring from lighting along Southland freeways. Wiring theft has become a plague hitting freeways on the average of once a week, CHP Officer Jennifer Hink said. “They’re blacking out our freeways.”

Darkened freeways increase the danger for people who are stranded on shoulders, Hink said, adding that the problem is a recurring one. Today, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies said a man was electrocuted while apparently trying to steal copper from a live power line. Sgt. James Bovet said the man’s body was found about 1 a.m. near a downed line on Highway 76, in the rural northeastern part of San Diego County. “If you’re out there at 2 o’clock in the morning with a ladder I don’t know what else you’d be doing out there,” Bovet said. Deputies found a ladder propped against the pole and cutting tools scattered nearby.

The man’s body was found on the ground after utility workers arrived to shut off the 12,000-volt line. It appeared that the dead man was electrocuted as the live wire fell, said Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for Sempra, parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric. The man has not been identified. On Monday, the CHP took a report of a theft of wiring along the transition road from the westbound Riverside (91) Freeway to the northbound Orange (57) Freeway, Hink said. That theft of about 2,600 feet of wiring, worth about $800, is unsolved, Hink said. On Feb. 14, officers arrested Aden Delgaddo Jr. 31, of Riverside, she said. He had 1,800 feet of wire in his truck when he was taken into custody at 3 a.m. on the San Diego Freeway and Garden Grove (22) Freeway.

The recently widened Garden Grove Freeway is particularly hard hit, Hink said. The thieves apparently are well-trained in the activity, which could be dangerous on their part, she said. “They know what they’re doing,” Hink said. “They’re using the right tools. A lot of people deal with wiring and know how to do it.” The thefts are the result of recyclers paying $3 a pound for the wiring, five times the 60 cents a pound five years ago, Hink said. Authorities are working with recyclers, but spotting stolen wiring can be difficult because a lot of companies turn in used wiring, she said. Any member of the public that sees suspicious activity was asked to call 911, Hink said.


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