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Copper thieves strike Isleta parking lot lights

Thieves pulled dozens of feet of copper wiring out of this and 67 other light poles at the Isleta Amphitheater last week, a haul worth at least $50,000. County officials are hoping someone with information about the theft will alert authorities. (Marla Brose/Journal)
Thieves pulled dozens of feet of copper wiring out of this and 67 other light poles at the Isleta Amphitheater last week, a haul worth at least $50,000. County officials are hoping someone with information about the theft will alert authorities. (Marla Brose/Journal)
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County officials are asking the public to keep an eye out for at least $50,000 worth of copper wiring that thieves ripped out of dozens of two-story-tall light poles in the parking lot of the Isleta Amphitheater last week.

Thieves managed to get into 68 of the 78 light poles in the sprawling and largely unsupervised amphitheater parking lot by breaking into the access panels and yanking yards and yards of the wires out from the base of the light poles, said Mark Chavez, Bernalillo County’s land management section manager. None of the poles was toppled in the thieves’ heist, which took place over Sunday and Monday nights. The theft was discovered Jan. 21, he said.

“We sure would like any help finding who did this,” Chavez said in a phone interview.

The thieves also stole additional copper from a transformer in the parking lot.

Chavez said this theft is among the largest he’s ever seen in his role managing more than 100 county properties. He and others have brainstormed a number of ways to deter copper thieves or better guard the valuable metal. Those ideas include using cheaper aluminum wiring, installing solar-powered lights and using new “innovative” types of access panels that are designed to prevent break-ins.

In the last five years, the price of copper has increased from about $1.50 a pound in January 2009 to about $3.25 by the end of 2013, according to InvestmentMine, a mining information website. The price peaked at around $4.50 a pound in April 2011, according to the website.

Chavez said the parking lot theft required electrical savvy and brute strength. He said it was possible that the thieves attached the wires to a truck to get enough force to rip them out of the light poles.

Chavez asked that people call the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office with any information about who might have stolen the cables. The BCSO non-emergency number is 505-798-7000.

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