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.