City, businesses install aluminum cable wires to deter theft

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It’s bad news for meth-head thieves looking to make a quick buck. Local businesses and the city have a surprise for them when they try to steal copper wires.

The Starbucks on Central Avenue near the University of New Mexico is among the companies making sure they’re not targeted by meth addicts looking for copper wire–a crime that’s been a longtime problem in the city.

Now, new signs and steel locks have been put up meant to deter theft. The signs clearly state the building cables are aluminum.

“We recently had 1,700 feet of copper stolen from San Mateo and Interstate 40 that caused a few street lights to go out,” said Department of Municipal Development (DMD) spokesperson Johnny Chandler.

The damage is visible with holes at the bottom of the light poles, as thieves take the copper and cash it in at scrap yards.

“We’ve seen prices from $1 to up to $3 a pound for the copper depending on the market,” said Operations Manager Brian Pollock of Bixby Electric.

Crimes like this are costly to the city, and to keep it from happening again, the city is now looking to replace the copper wires with aluminum ones. 

“The loss of the copper as well as installation of the aluminum, we’re estimating $25,000 to $30,000 to replace that,” said Chandler.

Pollock often gets called in to fix the mess thieves leave behind. He said aluminum is much cheaper–60 percent the cost of copper–and could be a long-term solution.

“It’s constant; they’re stealing copper off the top of buildings, from air conditioning units, and everything else,” said Pollock.

He said aluminum could deter thieves, who can’t make substantial money from it. Starbucks is counting on that, and now the city as well.

“It’s important that the lights are running; the street lights are running for motorists, for pedestrians, for bicyclists alike,” said Chandler.

About 850 feet of copper wire was also stolen from light poles off Carlisle and Interstate 40. That fix will cost the city between $10,000 and $15,000. The city said every time they get hit by thieves, they will replace the wiring with aluminum. 

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