VALLEJO (CBS 5) -– Copper theft is nothing new in the Bay Area. But thieves have been particularly busy in Vallejo, where several schools were stripped of the valuable metal in recent weeks.
The problem has become so bad, it may impact the return to school for some students.
At Franklin Middle School, Vallejo Assistant Superintendent Mel Jordan believes three to five thieves sliced through heavy duty bolts and metal brackets to get to copper wire. He said the wire was live and the thieves knew how to take it despite the electrocution risk.
Jordan said there has been a rash of copper thefts at schools, with at least 10 occurring in the month of July and at least 14 in recent months. Franklin Middle School has been hit by thieves four times.
"They're professionals. They know what they're doing. They're technicians," said Jordan. "They know how to cut live wire and they know how to pull it."
Jordan showed CBS5 a 300-foot long pipe filled with copper wire flowing with at least 1,500 volts, a dangerous amount of electricity that doesn't stop these thieves.
"It's probably about $5,000 just for the wire in this one pipe," said Jordan.
According to Jordan, the thefts have cost the district more than $100,000.
"No fear. They don't believe they're going to be caught," said Jordan.
Perhaps that's because they know cuts at the Vallejo police department mean fewer patrols.
"Police are doing what they can do based on having an entire community to deal with, but it's really going to come down to community watch," said Jordan.
Officials say the theft problem is so bad, it may threaten the start of the school year.
The school district is asking Vallejo residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and to contact police.
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