Minneapolis' new strategy to thwart copper thieves targeting street lights

Carole Anne Broad walks her dog Chloe along West River Parkway in south Minneapolis at least once a day.

But for the past few months, she's noticed the streetlights have been out, thanks to copper thieves.

"It's been very dark and as I walk my dog, I see the wires just hanging out. At night, driving is a little bit like could really use some light on this road," said Broad.

City officials say Minneapolis spent $250,000 last year to replace copper wires stolen from light posts.

And when city crews replace them, thieves frequently steal the copper wires again.

"Unfortunately, we've had that happen when our crews get out there quickly, and we replace the missing copper and then within a few days, the thieves have hit the same area, which I know is really frustrating for the residents as well," said Allan Klugman, Director of Traffic and Parking services for the City of Minneapolis. 

So the city bought five miles of aluminum wiring to use in place of the copper wiring in about 125 light poles to deter people from stealing it.

City officials say aluminum is only worth about a quarter of copper's value on the salvage market and weighs about half as much, meaning it would fetch far less money because scrapyards pay by the pound.

"The aluminum is much less expensive on the resale or salvage market. So who's ever taken these wires? We want them to know that it's really not going to be worth their time to address these new ones," said Klugman.

City officials say if this test run along West River Parkway goes well, they could add aluminum wiring to streetlights in other parts of the city as well.

"I think it's a great idea. I think lights deter riffraff, maybe. I can certainly tell who's coming," said Broad.