Surrey experienced a record amount of wire theft last year.

Surrey experienced a record amount of wire theft last year.

Wire theft cost Surrey $2.8 million last year

Surrey experienced a record year of loss due to people dismantling street lamps for valuable wire

Skyrocketing wire theft in this city cost taxpayers $2.8 million last year, a record high year copper theft in this city.

The cost of repair is equivalent to the annual taxes on 28 square blocks of homes in this city, and it has city staff and council scrambling to stop the bleed.

The $2.8 million in damages last year more than doubles the $1.2 million the year prior, and eclipses anything before that.

Part of the problem is the growing value of copper, which last year was $3.85 a pound, or 85 cents more than the year prior.

A chart contained in a corporate report delivered to council Monday shows the amount of theft loosely follows the market price of copper.

“… Due to the historical high price of copper and extensive network of street lights across the city, full protection of the system is very challenging,” General Manager of Engineering Vincent Lalonde wrote in the report to council.

The city has implemented myriad strategies to stop wire thieves in their tracks, but so far, many have been fairly unsuccessful.

“Since 2006, over 4,000 of the city’s 2,900 street light poles have been fitted with locking or security bolt handle covers at the locations where theft has been prevalent,” Lalonde writes. “This has had limited success.”

Surrey staff are now exploring the idea of using aluminum wire instead of copper, making it less attractive to steal.

In addition, the city will be stamping the insulation jacket with “Property of the City of Surrey” to make prosecution easier.

RCMP and bylaws are also working on several measures that include public awareness and monitoring metal recyclers, which are purchasing the metal for scrap.

Over the past six years, wire thieves have cost Surrey taxpayers $6.8 million, with 41 per cent occurring last year.

“The cost to businesses and taxpayers is phenomenal,” said Coun. Barinder Rasode, who chairs the city’s police committee. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can.”

She said the city has shut down a number of scrap dealers that have been caught buying hot wire, and any more that get caught will also be put out of business, she said.@diakiw