This image of a vandalized lamp standard shows the kind of damage electrical contractors can encounter after wire thieves strike. Theft countermeasures now include welding service access ports shut and replacing copper wire with aluminum, which has lower salvage value. (Photo courtesy Raylec Power)

City of Nanaimo parks manager says wire theft in 2019 worst in memory

Merle Logan Field, Nanaimo Ice Centre and NDSS fields recently hit

Wire theft is short-circuiting Nanaimo’s sports fields and other parks facilities.

Merle Logan Field, Nanaimo Ice Centre and the sports fields at Nanaimo District Secondary School have had copper wire stripped from electrical boxes and lamp standards, which has taken the better part of a week for electrical contractors and City of Nanaimo workers to perform repairs.

Most of the thefts happened overnight July 4.

“At the NIC, they stripped all the wires in the lights in the parking lot,” said Al Britton, city manager of parks operations. “I haven’t got the total bill yet, but the bill keeps climbing. Right now I’m at $7,500 because, what happened was, they clipped them far up, so we actually had to remove the poles, bring them down and re-thread them all.”

Wiring in underground conduits between lamp standards at NDSS Community Field was also stolen, along with wires to the scoreboard and fibre-optic lines, adding about another $10,000 in damages.

“We’ve had 34 boxes that had to be either fixed or modified,” Britton said.

Those expenses don’t include anti-theft measures being taken to deter further theft. Britton has also hired guards to watch over the properties at night for the week the repairs were made to prevent thieves from returning to strip the wires that were just installed.

“The week prior to that, Merle Logan was hit, so we had about $4,500 worth of wire stolen at Merle Logan,” Britton said.

He said the repair bill will likely top $20,000, not including additional costs to repair wire theft on the Vancouver Island Exhibition grounds that occurred overnight Wednesday.

RELATED: Repeated wire thefts becoming too much for Nanaimo’s VIEX

Britton said guards will be maintained there too.

Graffiti, particularly at May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park, has also been happening almost nightly.

“So I’ve had to add a static guard there, as well,” Britton said.

Britton said his normal annual budget for theft and vandalism is about $50,000 and he usually has about $10,000 to $20,000 of it left over at the end of the year. Last year, theft and vandalism tallied more than $150,000, but that figure also included costs of cleaning up homeless camps and the tent city at 1 Port Dr., which was lumped into his operating budget.

Britton said his budget for theft and vandalism this year was blown by mid April and 2019 is the worst year for wire theft and vandalism in Nanaimo’s parks that he and parks maintenance workers have seen.

“The wire theft and all that is definitely getting worse,” Britton said. “This is the hardest I’ve seen hit, ever, since I’ve been here. I’ve never seen more theft to this extent in my 36 years of being here. We used to get the odd one here or there – maybe a couple, two or three times a year – but literally it’s two or three times a month now.”

As repairs are made, theft countermeasures are being applied. For instance, lamp standard and utility box service covers, that could once be opened with a screwdriver, are now welded shut and low-salvage-value aluminum wire is replacing copper at theft sites and in new installations. The theft deterrents appear to be working.

David Myles, city manager of roads and traffic services, said the city started using aluminum wire in 2017. The idea came from Raylec Power, an electrical contractor.

“Our contractor, Raylec also has the contract for the highways,” Myles said. “They’d mentioned to us that’s what they were doing with highways, was putting aluminum in instead of copper, and it seemed to curb it a bit.”

Myles said it appears the city is achieving results similar to what Raylec experienced. Company representatives have yet to make comment.

Throughout 2018, the highest year on record for wire theft, the city lost about $80,000, but in 2019 up until the end of May, the figure for loss stood at $7,967.

Myles cautioned claiming a resounding success might be premature, but areas wire thieves struck multiple times are being left alone.

“It’s like the word’s out on the street, ‘Don’t even go there. It’s aluminum wire now,’” he said.

Myles said he thinks there are two kinds of thieves. Those who don’t understand how lighting system circuits work and so tend to snip out small amounts of wire to get enough money to buy drugs, and those who understand the wiring, bring appropriate equipment and cause much more damage.

“They’ll go in the day before … and they’ll cut the wire,” he said. “Then they’ll have a van with a reel in the back and they can bring in one or two blocks of wire just like that, close the doors and off they go.”



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two cars crash in front of Nanaimo strip mall

Accident happened on old Island Highway at 9:30 a.m. on Friday

New B.C. Cannabis Store opens up shop in Parksville

Outlet at Wembley Mall open seven days per week

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Supervised consumption keeps people alive

When the bureaucracy rules, personal responsibility and human decency suffer, says letter writer

Refugee experience to be explored in Nanaimo Museum exhibit

Refuge Canada to feature interactive exhibits, including an inflatable boat

Province announces more childcare spaces created in Nanaimo

Government says 20 new spaces will bring provincially funded spaces to 120 since 2018

Fashion Fridays: The basics you need for your body type

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Beefs & Bouquets, Jan. 23

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

New U.S. LNG terminal near northwestern B.C. town proposed

AlaskCAN International LNG wants terminal just over Canadian border, but using B.C gas

Couple wonders who’s in a Cariboo photo that’s been hanging in their home for years

Charles and Lynn Dick believe the image was taken at the 70 Mile Road House

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

‘I would not go’ to China says B.C. traveller concerned about coronavirus

Alice Li said she goes to China every other year but would scrap any travel plans

Royal Canadian Legion expels B.C. member for wearing unearned military commendations

‘Stolen valour is stolen service and it’s just totally wrong’

‘Latte-sipping urbanites’ need to realize value of mining in B.C., association head says

Industry generates a total of $3.9 billion in sales of goods and service across the province

Most Read