PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Thieves are removing copper electrical wiring from streetlights in the capital city, according to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT).

Charles St. Martin, a spokesperson for RIDOT, said the thieves appear to be targeting streetlights in known construction sites in Providence.

“We do not know the reason, but assume they are doing this to make a profit by reselling the copper for scrap value,” St. Martin said.

St. Martin believes the thieves are scoping out the sites and marking the manholes where the wiring is easily accessible.

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When the thieves return, St. Martin said they “remove several hundred feet of cabling at a time.”

“This is very hazardous for the individuals taking the cable as they carry high voltage electricity,” St. Martin explained. “It also creates unsafe conditions, leaving many streetlights without power and costing taxpayers money to replace them.”

St. Martin estimates that thousands of feet of wiring has been stolen in recent weeks, adding that it costs roughly $2 per foot to replace.

The wiring has been stolen from both existing and new ornamental light fixtures on the Henderson Bridge, Washington Bridge and the Point Street off-ramp from I-195 North.

RIDOT is urging anyone who sees any suspicious activity near manholes or construction sites to call 911.

St. Martin said the thieves likely aren’t wearing reflective vests, nor using traffic cones and flashing lights to alert drivers of ongoing roadwork.

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