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Mayor Keller Steps Up Fight Against Copper Theft

Theft of wiring puts street lights out of commission, increasing danger for pedestrians, drivers, and residents

April 8, 2020

While the response to coronavirus remains the City’s top priority, Mayor Tim Keller’s administration is also continuing efforts to improve the city in other ways, including ensuring that street lights are working. To that end, Mayor Keller is stepping up the fight against copper theft in Albuquerque, working with the City’s Department of Municipal Development and the lighting contractor Citelum to switch out copper wiring for less valuable aluminum and reinforce poles against would-be thieves.

Mayor Keller is also asking for the public’s help stopping and reporting suspected copper theft to keep our street lights on and save taxpayers money. Watch and download the PSA here.

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

Copper theft is not a new problem for Albuquerque, and when residents notice strings of lights out along an entire stretch of roadway or block, copper theft is often the underlying cause. When lights are out, streets are more dangerous for all users, from pedestrians and cyclists to vehicles, and residents feel less safe in their neighborhoods.

In February, the City saw $16,000 in copper theft, accounting for 26% of all maintenance of street lights. That makes it harder to get to the routine maintenance required to keep street lights running, replace broken bulbs, and install new lights. In two years, the total copper theft bill comes to more than $800,000 in copper theft in the last two years alone.

In an effort to prevent copper theft, Citelum is replacing copper wire with aluminum wiring, which is far less valuable in resale and often not worth stealing. To deter damage to the poles entirely, the City is adding stickers to poles with aluminum wiring to notify would-be thieves 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.

Please call 242-COPS if you witness wire theft happening, and 311 to report broken or malfunctioning lights.

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The Department of Municipal Development (DMD) assures that capital projects will be completed efficiently and in a timely manner with high quality standards. The department also oversee the security and maintenance of city facilities, including the operation of Isotopes Stadium. DMD provides the operation of maintenance of city streets, storm drains, traffic signals as well as the parking division, crossing guards and real property.