Copper Thieves Strip Copper from Calif. Streetlights

MANTECA, Calif. --

Copper thieves are targeting streetlights in San Joaquin County, taking hundreds of feet of wire overnight.

Lathrop, Manteca, Tracy and Mountain House have all been hit -- and losses are in the tens of thousands of dollars.

On Atherton Drive in Manteca, the streetlights are in place but the homes aren't. The copper wire for the neighborhood is also missing.

Officials say thieves have been pulling copper wire out of the ground and streetlights all across Manteca.

The theft will bring in a couple of hundred feet of wire for the thieves, but is a big loss for the city.

"They may be getting $200 worth of wire and costing us $5,000 to replace it, and we have streetlights that can't work for a couple of weeks," Jim Stone from Manteca Public Works said.

Manteca has been hit by the thieves for the past eight weeks, striking once or twice weekly.

Thieves often sell to recycling plants, but the rules have tightened over the last couple of years.

"We have to get a valid California ID, a picture of the ID itself, and a picture of the license plate of the vehicle, picture of the material itself, and a thumbprint," David Miraspini from the Manteca Recycling Center said.

The thieves have hit both in undeveloped and developed areas, and some residents are on guard.

"So you just have to be aware, and everybody looks for everybody else," resident Jim Chris said.

Officers said sometimes the thieves pull the wire out with a car or truck, and police hope neighbors will help in their capture.

"We're counting on neighborhoods to help us police it. The neighbors who live behind here had to have heard something," Rex Osborn from the Manteca Police Department said. "Call us when it happens, response time will be quick."

Manteca has put up a $1,000 reward for the arrest of the culprits, and callers can stay anonymous.

Manteca Hit With Copper Wire Thefts

Copyright 2010 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.