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Tab for copper theft from city street lights hits $16K in Feb.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Thousands of dollars were lost to copper theft from street lights citywide in February, adding up to nearly $1 million in losses in the past two years.

In response to the ongoing issue, Mayor Tim Keller is working with lighting contractor Citelum and the Department of Municipal Development to take the incentive away from thieves by replacing the wiring with much less lucrative aluminum.

“Not only is copper wire theft a burden on our taxpayers, lighting outages make pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike less safe,” Keller said in a news release. “We are taking proactive measures to fight copper theft and keep our streets well-lit for our community.”

The city logged $16,000 in copper theft in February, accounting for 26% of all maintenance of street lights, according to the release. In two years, the total copper theft bill comes to more than $800,000.

Citelum is replacing copper wire with aluminum wiring, which is “far less valuable in resale and often not worth stealing,” according to the release. To discourage damage to the poles altogether, stickers will be added to poles with aluminum wiring so “would-be thieves” are aware that they are wasting their time.

“In some areas, the city is also spot welding streetlight doors closed, making theft a much more difficult endeavor,” the release states.

The city asks residents to call 242-COPS if they witness wire theft happening, and 311 to report broken or malfunctioning lights.

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