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Wire Thieves Hit State Roadways
01/10/2008
Lieutenant Gregg Hastings
Public Information Officer
Office: (503) 731-3020 ext. 247
 
Christine Miles
Oregon Department of Transportation
Office: (503) 731-8265

Following several wire theft incidents along interstates and highways, area agencies are reaching out to the public for their help to catch thieves whose actions impact Oregonians not only in the pocket book but also with their personal safety.
Examples of ODOT different copper wire sizes on sign board
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has reported numerous wire thefts along Interstate 84, Interstate 205, and Interstate 5 as well as bordering bike paths.  Working in cooperation with Oregon State Police (OSP) and Portland Police Bureau (PPB), ODOT is also offering a reward up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction for those crimes.
 
“These thieves are not only costing Oregonians thousands of dollars, they are also disabling safety lighting and highway signs used to get important messages to highway travelers,” said Karla Keller, ODOT Maintenance Manger.
 
Wires have been severed, pulled out of conduits and removed, presumably to sell for quick cash.  So far this year ODOT has shelled out more than $225,000 to replace stolen wires and damaged electrical systems.  Five years ago, ODOT reported virtually no loss from such thefts.
 
Law enforcement investigators don’t know if the thefts are connected, but they are also concerned with the related safety impacts.  “Bike and pedestrian path lights may not be working, making someone an easier target for being a crime victim,” said Officer Catherine Kent, Portland Police Bureau.
 
Some area locations that have been hit include:
  • Interstate 84 at NE 148th Avenue
  • Interstate 205 bike/ pedestrian path
  • Interstate 205 near Stafford Road
 
ODOT, OSP and Portland Police Bureau need the public’s assistance raising awareness of this type of crime.  Thieves go to great lengths to steal wire and other property, even staging work zones to provide opportunity, time and cover they need to rip out the wires.  A legitimate work zone includes:
  • Signs alerting you that you are approaching a work zone
  • Proper lighting
  • Orange cones, barriers, signs, etc.
  • Workers/flaggers wearing orange, reflective  vests, hard hats and safety equipment
  • Vehicles with either exempt license plates and the ODOT logo or clearly marked with contractor names
 
Motorists can help by reporting suspicious work zones or area activity to law enforcement.
Investigators are asking people to watch for suspicious activities along these locations such as:
  • Non-ODOT vehicles parked on the shoulder with someone working near an electrical box
  • Unexpected power loss to highway message signs or overhead lighting
  • Suspicious person(s) carrying wire or metal objects near the highway
 
In addition to the offering of a reward, information flyers have been developed for distribution to residents who live near hit areas.  The flyers will help keep them informed and seek tips related to these investigations.
 
Anyone with immediate information of a possible crime in progress related to these crimes should call 9-1-1.
 
Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to the resolution in this case.  You may remain anonymous.  Anyone with information that could lead to an arrest is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 503-823-HELP (4357).