Covers foil wire thieves 0
A Richmond public works maintenance worker replaces an old-style street light cover with a new one on Tuesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY)
Richmond City Hall is replacing its stock of light-pole covers to fight thieves bent on ripping out the copper wiring inside for sale at scrap yards.
Fixing the damaged lights cost the city $589,000 between 2006 to 2011, with money taken from a fund earmarked for routine maintenance, not for replacing stolen wire.
City roads manager Ben Dias led a project to do something about it a year ago and the city is now trying to replace its 10,000 light covers
The cost is estimated at $700,000 over five years — more than the damage the thieves have caused — but Dias said it’s worth it as thieves often leave ropes of live wires hanging out that could potentially cause electrocution.
“All of the infrastructure is buried and if it’s just a matter of (putting in) a new wire it’s material and labour cost, but if you have to dig it up, excavate, and install a new wire then it’s very costly,” Dias said.
City electrical supervisor Dermott Pitts said there’s only been one incident of the new hatches being ripped out — compared to more than 250 incidents when the city had exclusively used the old covers.
The old hatches have an exposed bolt that’s vulnerable to anyone with a cheap wrench. It’s not uncommon for thieves to use sledgehammers to knock the lids off, either. Crowbars have also been used.
But the new hatches — 3,000 have been installed so far with a completion date of 2016 — have an indented bolt with a key that requires special tools to untwist.
A reinforcement bar behind the cover has also been thickened. The hatch itself has also been designed to resist hammer blows.
So far, the city has only seen one conviction for the thefts.
William Nezezon was sentenced to a day’s jail and two years’ probation in 2010. Prior to his arrest, police believed he was behind $80,000 worth of total damage.
RCMP Cpl. Stephanie Ashton said a police project to liaise with scrap yards in the city was initiated earlier this year to prevent thieves using them to offload stolen goods.
The city asks those who see wire protruding from streetlights to call 604-270-8721.