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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Public facilities and EV chargers hit hard by surge in copper thefts

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The city of Los Angeles is being plagued by copper thieves.

Copper thefts have been on the rise since last year and are becoming more rampant this year due to record copper prices.

In a recent case, the 6th Street Bridge in downtown Los Angeles has been left without lights for days. The lights went dark when thieves stole the bridge’s copper wires providing electricity. The damage spans nearly seven miles.

“They’re waiting for the bridge to be repaired,” said LA Councilmember Kevin De Leon from Council District 14. “Every light post is like an ATM for them. When we repair them, they steal again.”

A street light post in Los Angeles Koreatown is damaged from copper theft. [The Korea Daily]

According to the councilmember’s office, the stolen copper wire sells for about $11,000 on the street, but it costs the city of Los Angeles $2 million a year to replace copper wiring on damaged bridges and repair the damage.

Tesla EV charging stations are being targeted by copper thieves as well, with damage reported in cities like Seattle, Oakland, and Houston.

Other EV charging companies, such as Flo and EVgo, have also reported an increase in thefts recently. This has been observed in cities across California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon.

Copper theft has become more prevalent recently as the price of copper has hit record highs on the global market.

At the end of May, the price of copper hit an all-time high of $5.20 per pound. That’s a 25% jump from last year.

The rising adoption of electric vehicles has been cited as one of the reasons for the high demand for copper. The price of copper is expected to rise further in the future, according to many analysts.

EV charging companies say there’s not much copper in the cables, and it’s difficult to extract. At best, they can get $15 to $20 per cable.

Nearly 6,000 copper thefts were reported in the city of Los Angeles last year. The damage ranged from tombstone copper plates, street light posts, and junction boxes. The city reportedly spent $1.7 million in repairs.

Copper theft is not only costly and damaging but also a threat to public safety.

In Los Angeles’ Council District 14, which includes Downtown Los Angeles, copper wire theft has caused 3,700 streetlights to go completely dark, internet access to be cut off, and fire alarm systems to shut down.

The LA Metro subway power supply system was also impacted when burglars broke into the system and stole copper wires, disrupting service on some lines.

BY SUAH JANG, HOONSIK WOO [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]