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Copper Thieves Leave I-95 In Palm Beach Co. In The Dark

WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) – The next time you drive on I-95 and notice a street light is out you may have just witnessed the scene of a crime. It's a crime that is making driving more dangerous.

Thieves are breaking into the bases of light poles along I-95 in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, trying to get at the valuable copper inside.

"They're definitely doing it to sell the wire and make a profit and it's unfortunate because it is causing a safety issue on the highways," said Meredith Cruz with the Florida Department of Transportation.

In the last 4 to 6 months thieves have stolen copper wire from 100 lights in Palm Beach County, leaving drivers in the dark for 33 miles.

In all they took more than 175 thousand feet of copper wiring.

Miami-Dade has also been targeted. In the last year alone, 30 lights on the stretch of I-95 between NW30th and 79th streets have been vandalized for copper. So who pays the hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the streetlights? You, the taxpayer.

Derek Lawson is a licensed electrician and knows how difficult it would be to take wiring out of a light pole. Lawson also knows how risky it is.

"Very dangerous, you can lose your life.  One hit, you won't hear a noise, you won't hear anything, it's over, good night, that's it," he told CBS4's Natalia Zea.

Tuesday morning in Palm Beach, a Hialeah-based company will begin installing anti-theft devices on the light poles that were targeted. Next week another company will start replacing the wiring. The Florida Highway Patrol is asking for your help, if you see a driver stopped near a light pole on I-95 give them a call right away so they can check it out.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has set up a website where law enforcement authorities in the United States and Canada can report thefts. The information is relayed to recycling plants within 100 miles of the incident.

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