NANAKULI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If you drive along the Leeward coast, you may notice some street lights are out. That's because police say thieves have stolen the copper wires inside of them.
Nanakuli resident Mike Duarte caught a crook in action Sunday around 11 p.m. "I heard hammering noises like somebody was hitting something metal," he said.
When Duarte looked out his window, he saw a man crouched down working away at a pipe next to the highway.
"He has curly hair and he was wearing a black tank top and board shorts with white stripes on it," Duarte said.
That pipe connects to streets lights and when Duarte walked outside, he realized they were all out. "That's when I called HPD to let them know there was a possible theft in progress."
The suspect took off, but not before leaving behind some major damage.
"To see stuff like this going down just irritates me," said Duarte.
Duarte says the man targeted about six street lights, taking off with wires made of copper.
"What they're pulling is from junction box to junction box, the wires that run underground from pole to pole," said Robert Okuda.
Okuda owns a scrap metal recycling business in Kalihi and says copper can sell for a nice chunk of change.
He says it's usually difficult to know if a customer is a thief, but looks for red flags.
"It'shard to vet someone just based on looking at copper," Okuda said. "The way we vet people is we profile how they come to the shop. If theycame by bicycle or a car, is it registered?"
The state Department of Transportation says copper theft is nothing new and a bit hard to catch in action.
One solution the state is considering, is stringing the cables up higher along street lights.
Duarte has another suggestion. "Change out the bolts and use tamper-resistant bolts, that would be the first thing they can do."
"I guess it's a collective effort," said Okuda. "Everybody got to do their part in turning away business. If we all turn away that kind of business, then these folks won't have any place to sell to."
HPD has opened a theft investigation. Anyone who has information or who sees anything suspicious, call police