Street light outages, copper wire theft problems extend from St. Paul to Minneapolis
Replacing copper wire stolen from light poles in Minneapolis has cost the city $200,000 this year.
Data on the city’s website shows more than 300 reports of street light outages are currently “open” and homeowners along West River Parkway, such as Gary Seim, insist the problem is even bigger.
“I called 311 probably about two or three weeks ago and they had some limited information,” Seim said. “And we kept telling them, ‘no, this whole thing is shut down.’”
Exposed wires at the base of several poles along the parkway are the telltale sign that they were hit by copper thieves — a problem so pervasive in the Twin Cities that St. Paul recently allocated an extra $500,000 in the city’s 2024 budget to address problems associated with copper wire theft.
Plotting the locations of reported outages on a map in Minneapolis reveals many cases are clustered along major thoroughfares.
“It’s probably pretty easy to go in, snip ’em, and get up,” Seim said. “The problem is [when] they put them back in how do you keep them from getting ripped out again weeks later?”
St. Paul public works crews are trying a variety of strategies including placing metal bands around the poles, installing silent alarms that can alert police, and using materials that are less valuable to thieves.
Neighbors along West River Parkway in Minneapolis who spoke with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS say several of their street lights have been out for months now and the extended hours of darkness during the winter only makes the problem worse.
“Walking and then driving at night, it’s very busy,” Seim said. “It could be pretty scary.”