Thieves unearth electrical wire from District’s streets for its valuable copper

Buried treasure lies beneath the streets of the District, and thieves have gone to considerable lengths to get it, city officials said.

The treasure is copper wire, which, according to online data, fetches a good price as scrap. (Recent quotes were several dollars per pound.)

“On at least four occasions in recent weeks, thieves have removed electrical wire from underground conduits along city streets,” the D.C. Department of Transportation said in a statement.

The wire, of course, was not buried down there to be the prize in a scavenger hunt. It carries electricity that keeps streetlights burning.

In one case, the Transportation Department said, thieves stole the wire supplying streetlights on Kenilworth Avenue NE between Foote and Hayes streets.

In another case, the department said, wire was removed on Kenilworth between Polk Street and Eastern Avenue. That wire carried current that illuminated an overhead sign on DC 295, the department said.

In both cases, the department said, the wire was pulled from conduits buried beneath a grass median, between manholes.

Available information on scrap prices suggests that the metal in 1,000 feet of half-inch-diameter cable would be worth thousands of dollars.

A theft occurred last week at North Capitol and Irving streets, the Transportation Department said, and another was reported at South Capitol and Potomac streets. In an announcement issued Thursday, the department said it was trying to restore power at all four spots.

In some cases, the department said, thieves may pose as contractors and set up staged “work zones” to get the wire.

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