LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– Police in Lakewood are searching for copper thieves that have targeted the FasTracks West Rail Line project.
It’s an expensive problem that is slowing progress on construction. The crime could also become deadly.
Last weekend copper thieves hit the light rail station under construction next to Red Rocks Community College along 6th Avenue.
“As you can see, our overhead wire has been damaged. Over there you can see where it’s actually been cut,” said FasTracks Senior Manager Pranaya Shrestha. “As you can see that’s been cut and stolen.”
Copper from small grounding wires and the thick copper wire that hangs overhead have been cut and taken.
“All they want is copper for salvage value,” said Shrestha.
RTD said stealing copper is a dangerous business. One line that had been cut whipped back and coiled.
“So they cut into this, even if it’s not live it’s under a tremendous amount of pressure,” said Shrestha.
As the project continues, more lines will be energized. RTD said with 825 volts of DC it would be enough to kill a person.
“They’re messing around with our copper wire and if they happen to be in an energized area, they’ll be electrocuted,” said FasTracks spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas.
Cutting grounding wires can also put workers and the public at risk of getting shocked. After 400 copper thefts in the FasTrack construction area in recent months, RTD is warning copper thieves of the increasing danger and seriousness of the crime.
RTD said if a thief takes some grounding wire they might get $10 out of it, but it’s a felony because replacing that wire with all the work involved will cost $2,000. All the thefts from last weekend total about $50,000.
FasTrack engineers said when copper thieves cut grounding wires it also puts workers and the public at risk of being shocked.