This might be the first of its kind: a South Bay city is hiring security guards to fight copper thieves.
Copper thieves have become a huge problem for communities across the Bay Area. At Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, where the garlic festival is held every year, someone stole copper wires from a pull box. As a a result, safety lighting along walkways and ball park lighting was out, forcing teams to delay play for two weeks.
It’s a similar story at other parks around the city. In the past two and half years, Gilroy has had to shell out nearly $300,000 to replace stolen wiring and repair damaged poles. Now the city is fighting back.
“The city has budgeted for overnight patrols in our parks to stem the theft of copper wire,” said Gilroy city administrator Tom Haglund.
The city plans to shell out a total of $60,000 for the new security guards who will watch over most of Gilroy’s 16 parks. Not everyone agrees with the strategy.
“I think the $60,000 might have been better spent on something else like parks and rec for youth sports,” said Ray Rivas of Gilroy.
But others supported the city's plans.
“It makes sense - $300,000 is a lot of money, so if the city can spend just $60,000 to prevent that kind of loss that would be good," said Edward Harmon of Gilroy.
With copper wiring going for about three dollars a pound at west coast scrap yards, copper wire thefts are up statewide.
Between 2005 and 2011, PG&E lost an estimated $5 million to copper theft, prompting the company to hire at least five new security specialists. Gilroy leaders hope the same strategy will help them cut down on copper theft.
The new security guards won’t just be keeping an eye on these copper wires, They’ll also be on the lookout for vandals at all of Gilroy’s parks.