Increasing Copper Theft Putting Tulsans' Safety At Risk
TULSA, Oklahoma - Copper theft is a problem nationwide, but in Tulsa thieves are targeting places that could impact public safety.
The only thing lighting the intersection of Archer and Greenwood was the light from a News On 6 camera Monday night. Without it, the whole area would be in the dark after thieves stole copper from the street lights.
It’s not just lights the thieves are targeting, it is county buildings as well, and the taxpayers are footing the bill for repairs.
Tulsa Deputy Commissioner, Mike Willis pointed out the damage done by copper thieves. The county office building's heating and air system has been hit three times and repairs come from taxpayer wallets.
“All these add up to a real big ticket each time this happens,” Willis said.
The AC system supports the massive IT server for Tulsa County. The computers have to be temperature controlled and Willis said they've come way too close to having to shut everything down.
“We found a way to keep public safety and infrastructure up and running,” he said. “But multiple times we’ve had to shut down the website and email server cause of this issue.”
Public safety is an issue when drivers can't see where they're going or when areas of downtown aren't well lit.
Monday, the city found a number of freshly cut wires on street lights. It's believed the thieves cut the wires during the day when the circuits are off and return at night to collect the copper.
As for the county, it has installed a heavy duty security system and plans to move all the heating and air units to a more secure area.
“It’s a really bad deal, but we’re paying attention to it and eventually it won’t be a problem anymore,” Willis said.
On Archer, the city said crews are usually able to fix the issue before the person returns to steal the wire, but not in every case.
The city said tens of thousands of dollars are spent on copper repairs for street lights. In the county, they spend five to ten thousand dollars every time they get hit because it impacts the entire building and its staff and equipment.
If people notice any outages they can call the city of Tulsa directly.