Why Are The Street Lights Out or Dark? Wire Theft
The City of Saint Paul Department of Public Works maintains more than 37,000 street lights and 32,000 light poles throughout Saint Paul. Street lights are a critical part of the City’s infrastructure because they provide illumination for safe pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle access within the City right of way (sidewalks, boulevards and streets). Street lights can also serve as a general deterrent for unlawful activities.
In the recent years the City of Saint Paul has experienced significant and reoccurring theft of the wire from street light fixtures both in City right of way and parks. While this issue is not unique for other cities and municipalities across the nation, Saint Paul has seen an increase in wire theft since early 2021.
Stealing the wire from the street lights is not only illegal and leaves many of our neighborhoods, roadways, and parks dark for extended periods of time, but also can be dangerous to the thieves – as we are leaving more lights energized during the day to deter theft. In addition, the thieves often do significant additional damage to the internal conduits, external base, and entire system which takes additional time, resources, and costs to be repaired and replaced along with the missing wire.
If residents notice that the street lights are "on" during daytime hours, please know that this is intentional. The energized lights helps deter, but not prevent, wire theft.
City staff has put additional resources to repair and replace street lights that have been damaged due to wire theft, only to have the new wire stolen again within a matter of hours. More areas of Saint Paul remain dark as we cannot repair and replace the wire as fast as it is being stolen.
We need the support of residents and businesses to stop street light wire theft!
Wire theft is not random, but often organized and coordinated with people even wearing vests and putting out cones. If you see anyone “working” on street lights during any time of the day or night and there is a not a City of Saint Paul vehicle near the site, please report the location and activity to the Saint Paul Police Department at 651-291-1111. Do not approach the “workers.”
To report any street lights that are out or damaged, please report the location to our Traffic Operations Division at 651-266-9777 or through the online form.
Message to Businesses that Recycle/Resell Copper Wire & Other Materials:
As a business entity or recyclers, we need your help to curtail and end this endemic issue!
More specifically, the City of Saint Paul is requesting any business, individual, or entity that receives, processes, recycles, or otherwise pays a third party (or person) for any recyclable materials (especially wire) to be cognizant of the negative impacts that wire theft is causing to the overall safety and livability in our neighborhoods and community.
The City of Saint Paul asks for your partnership by rejecting any and all materials (including, but not limited to wire) that are suspected to have come from City lighting systems, and to contact the appropriate law enforcement agency when those suspicions can be confirmed.
Your awareness, diligence, and cooperation of not accepting materials that are potentially stolen can deter wire theft, preserve this critical City infrastructure, and improve the community for all.