Copper thieves have vandalized streetlights on the western end of St. Croix, leaving motorists and pedestrians at risk and causing the financially strapped V.I. Water and Power Authority to make costly repairs to restore service.
This has occurred dozens of times in the past few years. (See Related Links below) A few days ago, WAPA got word that a string of streetlights along the western lane of St. Croix’s Melvin Evans Highway, between William’s Delight and Estate Carlton, had been vandalized.
The thieves broke into the conduit along a 150-foot run and made off with over 300 feet of wire from the highway’s streetlighting system, according to a statement from WAPA.
“This is extremely costly to the authority and presents a hazard to motorists who travel on the highway at night,” WAPA acting Chief Executive Officer Julio Rhymer said in a statement, adding that the cost of these repairs must ultimately be passed on to WAPA customers.
The thieves’ damage to the pole conduit, cables and locks makes navigating the area hazardous for motorists and potential pedestrians and forces WAPA to try to find money to replace the damaged equipment, according to the utility.
“This is an ongoing costly problem we face,” Rhymer said, adding that “crews and contractors are making emergency repairs, which are to date about 75 percent completed, and until the work is finalized, the area will remain without adequate lighting.”
A similar copper theft incident occurred in the same location last December. And more than 14 more thefts occurred in 2013.
The V.I. Police Department is investigating this recent theft and, if the thieves are caught, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, WAPA said. Cutting and stealing power lines is both criminal and dangerous; live wires can kill or cause the loss of limbs.
WAPA asks anyone with information about this or any other theft of copper wire to report what they know to the VIPD or to WAPA’s Internal Audit Revenue Assurance Division at 340-715-6563 or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Any information provided will be held in confidence, WAPA said.