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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thieves leave Elysian Valley bikers and walkers in the dark*

Photo by Waltarrrr/Flickr

More than 100 LED lights along a new section of the L.A. River Bike Path in Elysian Valley have gone dark after thieves ripped out $50,000 worth of copper wiring earlier this month. Most of the LED lights along the new 2.5-mile path, which was dedicated last December, will remain turned off  until city engineers can figure out new ways protect valuable copper wiring from thieves along the secluded stretch of the river. Police are investigating the theft, which is believed to have been the work of persons posing as city employees.

“We don’t want to put the wire back in until we have a secure, protected method,” said Tim Fremaux, an engineering associate with city’s Department of Transportation.  “The real problem with the L.A. River [path] is the isolation of it. That’s why its so attractive to these folks.”

The thieves struck earlier this month by breaking into the electrical junction boxes installed at every light pole and pulling out the wires buried underground. The lids of the boxes had been secured with stronger bolts and concrete following earlier copper wire thefts on other bike paths. But the new security measures were obviously not enough to deter the thieves, who made off with 70% of the copper wiring along the new section of the path.  The same thieves may have been involved in previous copper wire thefts along the river and other locations, Fremaux said.  “If you don’t know what you are doing, you can easily be electrocuted.”

One solution that has proved successful in foiling copper wire thieves is the installation of solar-powered lights along portions of the river.  However, most of the bike path dedicated last year south of Fletcher Drive is shaded by trees, blocking the necessary sunlight, Fremaux said.

It’s not clear when the wiring will be replaced and the lights switched back on,  Fremaux said. Engineers are considering using new bolts to protect the junction boxes in addition to other options.

The public is also being asked to watch for any suspicious activity along the bike path.  Bikers and walkers are asked to take photos of anyone working on the lights – even if they look like city workers – and email them to police,  said Julie Wong, a spokeswoman for Councilman Eric Garcetti. “We don’t want the thefts happening again.”

* Correction: A previous version of this post had garbled Julie Wong’s quote. The quote has been corrected.

15 comments

  1. Given the history of this kind of theft along the river, I find it kind of hard to believe that the city spent all this money to install these lights without coming up with a better way of preventing this. The lights were nice while they were working.

  2. This is sickening. It essentially comes down to installing bullet-proof locks, and burying the access terminals several feet underground. Or maybe god-forbid, having the police patrol the area. A picture I took of one of the wire terminals last year, prior to the lights being installed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/4953135055/

  3. Oh and the photo above, credited to Curbed L.A. is actually one that I took: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/5225337037

  4. @ WALT! Thanks for the additional pictures. I will change the credit line on the photo that appeared on Curbed L.A.

  5. People steal wire all over the city. When I was living next to the 4th St bridge, we would get hit all the time.

  6. Would a solar-powered solution that doesn’t rely on long copper lines not be a viable solution? I understand that it’s probably seems more expensive than copper at face value, but when you take into account the cost of laying the wire in the ground, and then add the cost of replacing and securing the stolen wire (and hoping thieves don’t figure out a way around that security), is the cost difference really that substantial?

  7. damn meth heads.

  8. “We don’t want to put the wire back in until we have a secure, protected method,” is a statement that could be lifted from the city’s response when the LA River Bikeway lights went dark from copper wire theft — and STAYED dark for years while a purported “secure, protected method” was developed. For a Garcetti rep to then say “We do want the thefts happening again” is just another failblast from that past.

  9. @Will-

    the actual Garcetti rep quote is “we do want the thefts FROM happening again”.

  10. This is a shame. A lot of money has been spent improving the path, and more people are enjoying it, but still there are a few thieves (and taggers and litterbugs) doing what they can to spoil it.

  11. EXCELLENT idea, Brian M!

  12. Elysian Park is an unsafe area in general (similar to the Ballona Creek bike path), involving gangs, theft, and other crime. It needs to be patrolled by cops. Especially during evening & night hours!

  13. @ Libertad. I took out the FROM, which was my mistake.

  14. Actually, the city already has a solution – you can find it on all the junction boxes serving the regular street lights in Elysian Valley (which have experienced NO theft problems!). One of the bolts holding the box cover appears to be a security nut that cannot be removed without special tools. I can’t figure out why the same design was not used along the bike path? Wouldn’t require much planning to use the design they already have?!

  15. [...] Thieves leave Elysian Valley bikers and walkers in the dark* ??? The Eastsider LA [...]

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