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.