a Telus lineman carries out repairs after thieves cut off power and the lights for customers while attempting to steal wire.

Wire theft, vandalism in City have costs skyrocketing past budgeted projections

Costs up to $80,000 as of end of September, compared to $8,500 for all of 2010

  • Oct. 12, 2011 3:00 p.m.

With copper prices spiking, incidents of vandalism and wire theft in Langley City are following suit — to the point that it will cost taxpayers roughly 10 times the amount engineering staff had budgeted for 2011.

Gary Vlieg, the City’s director of engineering, provided council with some rather shocking figures at its Oct. 3 meeting.

As of Sept. 30, he reported, wire theft in 2011 had cost the City $80,000. That’s compared to $8,500 in damage for all of 2010.

On top of that, he said, the first weekend in October was a particularly prolific time for thieves.

“We were very severely hit across the City in one weekend,” said Vlieg, adding that industrial areas, parks and residential neighbourhoods were all hit.

The forecast is that wire theft will cost the City, which occupies just four square miles, about $110,000 this year. That would take the municipality between 1,000 and 1,100 per cent over budget, Vlieg said.

However last weekend’s crime spree had him adjusting those numbers significantly upward.

“It could hit as high as $150,000 just in wire (theft related costs), if it keeps happening at the same rate,” he said.

“What kind of resale value does wire have,” asked Councillor Rudy Storteboom. “Is it pennies on the dollar?”

“That’s correct,” replied Vlieg.

Copper worth about $20 to a thief can cause thousands of dollars in damage and repairs, he said.

Between replacement materials, staff callouts, contractors and police attendance, “it gets very expensive, very quickly,” said Vlieg.

Wire theft is not only costly, it can be extremely dangerous to the public if an energized pole has been vandalized, he noted.

Both staff and council used the televised meeting to encourage residents to phone police when they see something out of the ordinary.

Anyone working around a pole or electrical device, particularly late at night, who is not in a City of Langley vehicle or Cobra Electric truck, is more than likely stealing wire.

“Call 911,” said Vlieg.

“Sometimes people wonder if it does any good to make that call,” said Mayor Peter Fassbender. “We’re encouraging the public to make the call.”

Metal theft is a problem in every community, the mayor said, adding that the province has indicated it is working on legislation for the purchase and tracking of metal. The goal is to create consistent practices from one community to another in the effort to stem the fencing of stolen copper.

Vandalism to City parks is also up, Vlieg reported. Although the figures are in line with the $68,840 that was budgeted for 2011, that’s roughly a 20 per cent increase over last year’s figure.

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