Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Thieves snatch 6 miles of copper wire, a record for Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The biggest copper heist in Utah memory has stripped more than 6 miles of wire from a stretch of Salt Lake City highway.

The Utah Department of Transportation first noticed the theft Thursday, officials said, but they don't know when exactly thieves snatched up the wire. The thieves either disguised themselves as a construction crew or worked in the middle of the night on multiple occasions to yank wire from the median of Interstate 15, said roadway lighting engineer Richard Hibbard.

"We can't keep wire in the ground to save our lives," he said, estimating that the department deals with smaller-scale thefts nearly every week. Thieves take the wire to recyclers who will pay for metal by the pound.

Officials are shocked, they say, to see a theft this big pulled off on a relatively urban and highly traveled stretch of road. Billboards dot the side of the six-lane highway that's lined with warehouses, sandy dirt and red rock.

"To say the least, this was an extremely risky operation that they pulled off here," said Utah's transportation spokesman John Gleason, adding, "This is by far the largest single copper wire theft we've dealt with here in Utah."

The department doesn't know exactly when the theft happened because many highway lights all over the Wasatch Valley haven't been working. Routine road maintenance in the area is falling to the wayside as workers grapple to replace the missing wire and broken metal boxes.

The thieves likely used sledgehammers to smash into boxes of wires running to light poles, clipped the copper and then used cars or trucks to pull 30,000 to 35,000 feet of wire out of the ground, authorities said. The scale of the heist, they said, indicates that the thieves had sophisticated electrical know-how.

They snuffed out almost a dozen light poles along a mile of highway between 1000 North and 1800 North, toward the outer limits of Salt Lake City. The missing coiled wire will cost between $50,000 and $60,000 to replace, officials say.

Utah's transportation department spends $300,000 to $400,000 a year to replace stolen copper, officials said. To combat the thefts, the department is considering replacing the copper wire with aluminum wire, which proves less lucrative at recycling sites. But aluminum tends to short out more easily. Engineers are also working on a plan to bury light boxes along the road underground to make them harder to find.

A few years ago, "when the recession hit, it got really bad," Hibbard said.

At trade-in sites, it's hard for workers to distinguish thieves from electricians. Wire from highway lighting looks pretty much the same as demolition scrap, said Mark Lewon, president of Utah Metal Works in Salt Lake City. Electricians, he said, routinely turn in up to a few thousand pounds of copper wire.

"Unless they're wearing a sign that says they're a thief," Lewon said, there's no way to tell if the metal is stolen.

In total, the wire stolen in this heist could return between $5,200 and $9,000, according to rates offered by Lewon.

Comments
Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

LAND O’LAKES — An investigation continues after a video surfaced on Tuesday that shows a Sunlake High School school resource officer wrestling a female student to the ground while taking her into custody, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Offic...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s high temperature tops out about 80 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP. Our next rain chance is Friday when a weak front moves through. And next week brings the heat. Expect ...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that a cold front — which spawned a weak tornado in Ruskin — has departed, it leaves behind pleasant conditions across Tampa Bay.Relatively cool temperatures, clearing skies and low humidity will take hold until Friday, according...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

TAMPA — A judge could determine today whether the man accused in four Seminole Heights slayings is competent to stand trial.Attorneys for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III filed a formal request on Monday to ask that Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe appoint a psy...
Updated: 1 hour ago
ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

When ESPN's Rece Davis heard about the idea for boosting the college football insight into the NFL draft, he didn't need any convincing."My immediate reaction was, this is a no-brainer," Davis said.Davis will spearhead the network's overdue look at t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

The other day I stopped to check on some progress. And got to see a meerkat, too. Progress in Tampa these days usually refers to the development of Vinikville — excuse me, Water Street Tampa — along the south edge of downtown. Or what w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 2 hours ago
He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

TAMPA — Dwight DuBose walked out of the Orient Road Jail on Tuesday night after trading an orange jumpsuit for a brand new polo shirt and slacks.It was about 9 p.m. He flashed a broad smile and hug staff members of the Innocence Project of Florida wh...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

PennsyvlaniaGuilty of golfing while blackBlack people have long complained about getting pulled over by police for "driving while black," or being eyed suspiciously by security guards for "shopping while black." Now, five women say they got into trou...
Updated: 10 hours ago