Freeway Lights Latest Target for Thieves

KIPAPA, Oahu (KHNL) - If you travel the H2 freeway at night, the state is warning you to be careful, some busy roadways are going be dark. Rod Haraga of the State Department of Transportation says, "We've had vandalism on the conduits. The conduits is what connects the lights with electrical power."

A mile long stretch of the H-2 Freeway will be dark at night now, probably for several months.

Thieves struck this week, the third time in 6 months. Haraga says they "just cut through the conduit. Cut the wires and just keep pulling. Very simple."

Why aren't they getting electrocuted? Haraga is baffled. "Good question because I don't know. They may know where the junction boxes are, where the power switches are."

Haraga suspects the burglars are selling the copper wire conduits at recycling centers.

Jill Tokuda of Reynolds Recycling explains, "The market for copper is very good right now. Depending on the quality of the copper and the condition it comes in, it could be as high as $1.50."

Tokuda says it's hard to identify stolen materials that come in, though it might help if the state called recycling centers to let them know what to possibly expect. "We can alert all our redemption centers and let them know to be on the lookout for these items."

It'll cost the state about $50,000 to replace the copper wires. The real price is the increased driving risk.

Haraga explains, "It could cost lives. That's the bottom line. It's a safety issue for our freeways. We need to keep it lit."

The police have opened an investigation into this vandalism.