At a recent press conference conducted by both the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana State Police, details were revealed concerning the return of an old threat to highway safety. Highway lighting wire thieves are at it again, creating dangerous driving conditions and robbing taxpayers. The crime of copper wire theft from lights that illuminate INDOT roadways is literally highway robbery of Indiana drivers. Indiana taxpayers are being ripped-off and highway safety is being compromised.
Over the last two months, lighting wire theft in INDOT Northwest district has cost Indiana taxpayers more than $100,000 in repair and replacement costs. Thieves, who use any means necessary to rip out and steal copper wiring to sell to scrap yards for cash, have targeted nearly one hundred lighting poles. However, this type of theft results in damage that far exceeds the salvage value of the wire. Meaning the Indiana taxpayer sees the brunt of the financial burden caused by these thefts. To fight back, INDOT and Indiana State Police (ISP) are working together to catch the crooks and prevent future theft, but with over 4,000 highway lighting poles in INDOT’s Northwest District alone, it’s a big job. Now authorities are asking the public to join in the fight by reporting any suspicious activity.
Despite additional security measures, and the mortal danger presented by stealing live electrical wires, the thieves persist, especial-ly along the I-80/94 corridor in Northwest Indiana. The result is darkened highways, threatening the safety of drivers, and a growing cost to Indiana taxpayers as INDOT crews replace missing wires to relight highways.
The public can assist authorities in combatting this crime by Saying Something when they See Something. Drivers should call 911 if they see anyone around highway lighting poles. Whether the person is dressed in official highway safety gear and uniform or not, the public is asked to call. ISP will investigate all individuals around lighting poles. If this is not what you see, “say something.”
In the meantime, the authorities are investigating everyone. The ISP will arrive on the scene and investigate anyone working on or around highway lighting. Official highway lighting workers will be required to show proof of their license to be in the area. Without proper identification, the individual may be arrested.
ISP has stepped-up patrols around highway lighting, while INDOT crews are patrolling the hardest hit areas both day and night.
Traffic Management Center technicians are focused on highway cameras 24 hours a day and will call police about any suspicious activity.
INDOT and ISP do not want to reveal all details of the investigation, but we are utilizing various forms of technology and analytic data to develop location models where copper thieves might strike and looking at ways to track the thieves once they strike.
This is not the first time thieves have targeted copper wire in highway lighting. Back in 2013, metal wire thieves utilized similar tactics and the results were darkened highways and hundreds of thousands in stolen taxpayer dollars. Through cooperation with INDOT and the public, Indiana State Police caught and convict-ed two criminals, who are still behind bars right now. The wire thefts ended on Indiana highways. While we are once again battling similar crooks, we’ve faced this challenge before and together we can end it.
It’s just a matter of time.