Copper thieves strike Mitchell, Greer parks in Palo Alto | News | Palo Alto Online |


Copper thieves strike Mitchell, Greer parks in Palo Alto

Thefts cause thousands of dollars in damages

Thieves stripping copper wiring from light poles and electrical systems at Palo Alto parks have caused thousands of dollars in damages and risked electrocution, city officials and Palo Alto police said.

On July 12 at 7:35 a.m. a Mitchell Park employee reported that 27 "Christy" electrical boxes were open with wires hanging out, Linda Clerkson, city communications manager said. The thieves stole several thousand feet of copper wire from the boxes, which each have four to six large-diameter copper wires. The wires were "live" and had 220 volts/60 amps of electricity running through them at the time, she said.

The electrical wires were pulled out throughout the entire park, which cut power to the small building that includes the Tiny Tots restroom and kitchen facility, the playground water feature, and 27 of the 36 light poles located throughout the park, Clerkson said.

"The city's priority was to immediately make the area safe. This work involved locating the affected areas to shut off live electrical circuits, cover exposed wires, and secure the 'Christy' boxes throughout the park," she wrote in an email Tuesday morning.

Employees are currently working to restore power throughout the park. The work involves troubleshooting, tracing and identifying affected circuits to reconnect back to the proper circuits. Power has so far been restored to the building and water feature. The work to re-wire and connect the lights has begun and could be completed by the end of the week, she said.

A similar incident occurred about two months ago at Greer Park and affected the wiring between eight light poles and the irrigation controller.

Clerkson said the city did not specifically track the repair costs for Greer Park repairs, but the cost of material alone for the repair was several thousand dollars The amount of copper wire removed from Mitchell Park is much larger, but she did not immediately have a cost estimate for this damage.

She stressed that cutting these wires is "an extremely hazardous thing to do. Individuals can easily be electrocuted or at minimum receive a very strong shock from these kinds of criminal activities.

"Because copper theft is a crime and can also cause bodily injury and possibly death, if anyone sees suspicious activity, please notify the police immediately through the non-emergency phone line at 650-329-2413," she said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Too bad
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

When you put candy in a dish outside your house on Halloween, it will be emptied very quickly, despite any sign saying "Please take just one".
When we put money in the form of copper in poles and such, it will be stolen. The question is, how do we theft proof the poles, or what is more expensive: replacing copper regularly, or buying surveillance cameras to safeguard our infrastructure?
Whoever invents tamper proofing for items containing copper is gonna make a fortune.

Like this comment
Posted by patriotic citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

Sad that people resort to theft. Maybe they needed to feed their children too.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:22 am

In addition to surveillance cameras, theft detection electronics needs to be added to that infrastructure that is subject to vandalism and/or theft. This would include locks, which would be keyed to some sort of detector that would alert a central operator (911, or Field Services) that an unauthorized access to infrastructure.

Since the parks are supposed to be closed at night, then some sort of movement detectors might be considered.

Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

Since parks have been targeted, perhaps discreet nighttime police surveillance is in order at other city parks.

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:38 am

OK, I understand that it's really expensive, but how about burying our utilities? Who knows, if the thefts continue, this may even prove to be cost-effective!

Like this comment
Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Clearly the thieves are knowledgeable in how to steal from electrical fixtures without being fried. Maybe even in a "work truck" of some sort, to appear as though they are on a bona fide assignment. No one saw anything? Hard to believe. Someone who is an insider or has inside contact?

Like this comment
Posted by Davey-o
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Interesting. I happened to be coming home btwn. 1-2 am mid June. Saw headlights back down that road off Charleston that boarders the school heading to the park. Other than the headlights, it was completely dark. Being alerted to the possibilities, I called the emergency number for the PA PD. The interest level was less than minimal; which is sad, because it could even have been a violent crime in progress.

I'm afraid this is due to continue to occur until surveillance is added. And, I hate that, because I don't like the idea of living under being watched all the time. But I guess it's unavoidable with some of the elements we have "working" the area.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Shocking! Too bad that the thieves didn't get a shock or two themselves as a deterrent to stealing the copper pipe.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm

This is unacceptable. We need to find ways to protect valuable public property, fixtures, electricaland etc. I had read about copper being stolen - I am surprised our city officials didn't anticipate this possibility and think about ways to protect that, for example.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Miller
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm

These cities need to start locking these entry points with high security fasteners. It does not cost much and saves a ton of money.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Uh, Tom, these were already buried, just not secured very well.

Sanity check -- it's non-trivial to pilfer several thousand feet of wire. 27 boxes, 6 wires each, say 30 ft length to make it around 5000 ft total? I have a hard enough time with a 25-ft extension cord. Don't know how they made off with a mile. Seems it would take more than one vehicle. 60 amp rating is maybe 4 or 6 AWG, ~100 pounds per 1000 ft, call it 500 pounds. Kitco spot copper price today is about $3.50/lb. Scrap copper maybe fetches half of that, so thieves may realize, oh, $900? Worth the risk of shock or jail? No telling.

Looking closely at that photo, I wonder what the sculpture in the background is made of...

Like this comment
Posted by Chuck
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I've heard that such thieves sell the copper at recycling centers (who else would want it?). Can we put out an alert to the local recycling centers to maybe catch these vandals?

A good, but less expensive deterrent would be to install floodlights triggered by motion sensors. Then the neighbors would be alerted to call the police.

Like this comment
Posted by Copper & motion sensors
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I like the idea of MOTION SENSORS!!!! but might be also good to be able to see what is going on.

Like this comment
Posted by LOL
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2012 at 2:00 am

Dear member, I just read your post about putting police in the park at night. I had to laugh because there only 5 cops on at night in PA so looks like thats not going to happen.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2012 at 9:32 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Legitimate recycling centers already have to demand IDs from anyone offering copper wire or pipe for sale.

Like this comment
Posted by Carlitos Waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Lets rig the "christy" boxes, so whenever an unauthorized person opens it, he would receive a certainly deadly electrical shock,and set off emergency lights, recording video cameras, and sirens to wake up the whole neighborhood while at the same time send a distress call to the Police Department, and only a few ones in the Utilities Dept should have the secret in how to bypass it.

Like this comment
Posted by CC
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Now I know why the city like saratoga has no street light. May be a way to go!

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