San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit says a project intended to speed trains in Contra Costa County, which was supposed to be done by now, was delayed 10 months after crooks stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of copper, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Rapid transit officials intend to spearhead a task force on metal theft in hopes of reducing a problem vexing numerous public agencies, utilities and businesses, costing millions of dollars a year.
In Vallejo, Ca., officials said thieves have stripped copper wire from 77 streetlights and signal lights at five intersections since May. The cash-strapped city has been unable to replace much of the wiring, plunging some streets into darkness and forcing three of the intersections to be turned into four-way stops. Copper theft has been a problem for decades, but became particularly bad in the past eight years as prices for the metal rose along with demand from China and other industrializing countries. In the past few years, metal thieves have damaged grave sites and gutted foreclosed homes. They made off with a famous church bell from San Francisco, a brass plaque honoring assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk, a bronze pelican, and pieces of a memorial to victims of a 1991 fire.