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To Fight Copper Thefts from Highway Lights, Kentucky Police & Transportation Cabinet Team Up

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and Kentucky State Police (KSP) are joining forces and offering a reward to attack a crime that is costing Kentucky taxpayers millions of dollars – theft of copper wire from highway lighting systems.

One such theft occurred on I-471 in Campbell County.

“The crime of copper wire theft from lights that illuminate our roadways is literally highway robbery of Kentucky drivers,” KSP Major Mike Crawford said at a news conference today. “This type of theft results in damage that far exceeds the salvage value of the wire.”

Nancy Albright, Deputy State Highway Engineer in charge of operations and maintenance, said KYTC engineers estimate that the thieves have caused at least $2 million in damages in the last four years. In 2014 alone, thieves have pillaged entrance and exit ramp lights on our interstate highways at least 37 times.

“The cost of replacing wiring and repairing vandalized lights comes from the cabinet’s highway maintenance budget,” Albright said. “In other words, motor-fuels tax money that Kentucky drivers pay at the pump – money that we need for such work as snow and ice removal, potholes and guardrail repair – instead has to be spent to remediate crime scenes.”

Also of concern is the safety of motorists. “Imagine the difficulty for a driver who has to navigate an interchange – possibly an unfamiliar interchange – in greater darkness,” Albright said. 

To fight back, the two agencies today announced a reward of up to $2,500, paid from KYTC maintenance funds, for information leading to arrest and conviction of those responsible for copper wire theft from highway lights. They also joined in making a public appeal to metal recyclers for assistance in identifying anyone trying to sell the stolen copper.

“We are actively seeking help from the recycling industry in fighting this particular crime,” Crawford said. “But the offer of a reward is open to any and all citizens who can provide the information necessary for a successful criminal prosecution. Getting that information may begin with an alert motorist who notices suspicious activity around highway lights and reports it to us. And their identities can be kept confidential.”

KYTC Acting Inspector General Mike Duncan said no one except an authorized work crew should be accessing interstate lights. “And a legitimate crew will be easy to recognize,” Duncan said.

Work crew personnel will be in clearly marked vehicles from KYTC or the cabinet’s two electrical maintenance contractors – Arrow Electric Co. and Davis H. Elliott Co. Contractor employees are likely to be working from a service truck, characterized by side-mounted bins, or a “bucket” truck. Vehicles will utilize flashing lights while at work.

In addition, workers will be wearing personal protection gear, including high-visibility attire and hard hats. They also are likely to have exercised some level of traffic control, such as orange traffic cones.

Those with information can report it in multiple ways:

·         Call the KSP Hotline at 800.222.5555.

·         Call Investigator Chuck Hines, KYTC Office of Inspector General, at 502.330.0441 or 502.564.0501.

·         By confidential text message.

For texting a tip, the address is 67283. Type KSPTIP in the message field, leave a space and enter information about a crime. If the tip goes through, the sender will receive an instant confirmation text. Texting is completely confidential and telephone callers’ names also can remain confidential.

Major Crawford, Albright and Duncan, together with other KSP and KYTC personnel, made the announcement at a joint news conference in which reporters were shown samples of the wiring used in highway lights. The news conference also featured a map on which the wire-theft crime scenes were plotted.

From the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet