Miles of Arizona freeways and roads have gone dark at night because copper thieves have ripped out the wires that bring them power, says the East Valley Tribune in Tucson. The thieves sometimes steal just a few hundred feet of wire at a time, but that can darken up to a couple miles. The outages can last weeks or, in some cases, months. “If you see a bank of lights out nowadays, you can make the assumption that copper thieves have struck,” said a state transportation department spokesman.
The state has hidden some of the access boxes thieves have been prying open to reach the wiring. The thefts have cost the agency close to $500,000 in the last year. The most costly fix was on a fiber-optic line that thieves inadvertently sliced while looking for wire near one highway interchange. Drivers likely noticed darker freeways even where lights kept working because the repairs kept crews so busy that they were unable to do regular maintenance, including replacing burnt-out bulbs.