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Miami-Dade County Proposes Copper Wire Task Force To Combat Thefts

MIAMI (CBS4) - Copper thefts are leaving South Florida drivers and neighborhoods in the dark. So far this year on Miami-Dade County streets alone, nearly 300 streetlights have been broken, vandalized by thieves trying to get at the copper wire inside.

Now, two county commissioners are hoping a task force can help fight the problem.

"We've had complete neighborhoods in utter darkness," County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson told CBS4's Natalia Zea.

Edmonson's District, which includes Brownsville and Liberty City, has been most affected by the copper crooks. Residents there say the lack of lighting is making already rough neighborhoods more dangerous.

"You have the elderly that have to walk, you have people coming in from work, you have children out there, and people were afraid to come out in the dark," said Edmonson.

So far this year, thieves have taken out 277 Miami-Dade streetlights in their quest for copper.

The last four attacks happened in August. Each theft impacts nearby lights, so the County is trying to repair 17, 38, even 107 at a time.

Thieves have even knocked out 30 streetlights on I-95 in Miami-Dade and in West Palm Beach the problem is so bad, crews are installing anti-theft devices on the light poles.

Edmonson is now pushing to create a copper theft task force; made up of officers, experts, and people from the scrap yard industry.

She wants them to find a way to toughen the scrap metal sales ordinance the County already has in place.

"There were some things we left out," said Edmonson.

Commissioner Joe Martinez is supporting the plan and wants a crackdown on illicit scrap yards that are buying the copper, while taxpayers foot the bill to repair the lights where it came from.

"If you're not buying it, they're not going to steal it," said Martinez. "Who are they going to sell it to?"

Managers of the national group, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries say they support crackdowns on copper thefts, but they believe the focus should be on the thieves, so law abiding businesses aren't hurt.

A County Committee will vote September 13th on whether to create the new task force. If it passes there, the entire Commission will vote on it.

According to Miami-Dade County Public Works the thefts were in the following locations:

  • NW 71st, from NW 12th Avenue to 1-95; affecting approximately 17 streetlights.  The lighting system was successfully restored.
  • NW 22nd Avenue, from NW 62nd Street to NW 79th Street; affects 59 streetlights.  The lighting system was successfully restored.
  • NW 23rd Avenue, from NW 54th Street to NW 55th Terrace; affects 4 streetlights.  The lighting system was successfully restored.
  • NW 103rd Street, from NW 20th Avenue to NW 18th Avenue, affecting approximately 7 streetlights.  The lighting was successfully restored.
  • NW 79th Street, from NW 12th Avenue to NW 22nd Avenue, affecting approximately 23 streetlights.  The lighting system was successfully restored.
  • NW 12th Avenue, from NW 79th Street to NW 81 Street, affecting approximately 5 streetlights.  Repairs currently ongoing.
  • NW 54th Street, from NW 6th Court to NW 19th Avenue, affecting 38 streetlights.  Repairs currently ongoing  8.  NW 46th Street, from NW 6th Court to NW 13th Avenue, affecting 17 streetlights.  Repairs currently ongoing.
  • NW 7th Avenue, from NW 42nd Street to NW 79th Street, affecting 107 streetlights.  Repairs currently ongoing.
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