In a move to stop copper thieves, Pasadena officials on Wednesday announced they were offering a $10,000 reward, which matches an existing $10,000 reward from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“If you know something, say something,” Mayor Victor M. Gordo said during a Wednesday press conference held in front of Pasadena City Hall. “These are serious crimes.”
The $20,000 reward will not be going to one person, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
It will serve as a pool of money the city will use to reward tipsters for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of copper thieves.
Copper thefts are not just happening in the city but also occurring in the region, Gordo added.
Since January 2023, there have been 45 copper thefts in Pasadena resulting in 6 and 1/2 miles of stolen copper wires, according to Tony Olmos, director of public works. This also affected 360 street lights and two traffic signals, he said.
He estimated the damage has cost the city $50,000 in equipment and labor.
Thieves have swiped copper wires from different places in the city. They have targeted a lot of the city’s utility pull boxes. The perpetrator would open the utility box, expose the copper wires and steal them, Olmos said. The street lights then go out.
“This is really about safety,” he said, adding people can also trip on the open boxes or get shocked.
The perpetrators can also get hurt if they cut the wrong wires, Olmos said.
City officials said there has been an increase in copper thefts since November. Several people have been arrested by police since last year.
The Board of Supervisors last week approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to offer a $10,000 reward to help the city.
“I am a strong supporter of local cities’ efforts to combat crime,” Barger said in a statement. “I introduced this motion to send a clear message to thieves who are vandalizing public property: you will be held accountable. I’m hopeful these reward funds will encourage anyone with information about the thefts and destruction of public property to step forward.”
Barger also spoke at the press conference in Pasadena.
“We stand in solidarity with you,” she said, adding metal thefts have been occurring not just in Pasadena but countywide. She mentioned the theft at a Carson cemetery where thieves stole more than 100 name plaques.
“We have to send a strong message,” Barger said.
Stealing copper is not just a crime of opportunity, Police Chief Gene Harris said. It can lead to street lights going out and also impacts traffic safety, he added.
“We will be coming after the folks making these purchases,” Harris said. “Not just the folks pulling wires.”
The most recent cases occurred Tuesday.
A large roll containing 2,500 feet of conductor copper wire valued at $8,000 along with a roll of wire for general electrical use were reported stolen from a public works substation in the area of Altadena Drive and Walnut Street at 12:37 p.m. on Tuesday, Lt. Edgar Sanchez said.
And earlier that day, at 8:16 a.m., public works was notified about street lights not working in the area of Corson Street and Sierra Bonita Avenue, he said.
“They discovered a pull box tampered with wires cut,” Sanchez said. No copper wires were stolen, he added.
Police have caught suspected copper thieves in the past.
On Dec. 11, police arrested two Los Angeles men and a Pacoima woman.
It happened around 7:44 p.m. in the 1800 block of Corson Street. A resident, via her video surveillance system, saw two men tampering with a city electrical box in front of her home, Sanchez said.
The resident’s electrical power went out. She headed outside and saw a sport utility vehicle driving away, he said.
She gave the video to police. Officers spotted a parked SUV nearby with three people. Also near them was an utility box with the cover removed and the wires cut and removed, he said.
He believes the copper wires and tools were found in the SUV. The men looked like the men on the video, Sanchez said.
Authorities asked that anyone with information about the thefts call Pasadena Police at 626-744-4501. Anonymous tipsters can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or go to lacrimestoppers.org