The CHP has recognized that copper theft has reached epidemic proportions in California as well as across the country. This problem is getting worse and there is a
target rich environment with things like freeway signs and construction sites. Over the last five years, Caltrans has spent over eight million dollars in wire replacement. District 4
is currently undertaking a 21 million dollar project to fix assorted transportation infrastructure, much of which is a direct result of stolen copper. The theft of copper wire has
disabled CHP scale facilities, stopped road condition information from reaching drivers, affected Amber Alert information from reaching thousands and attributed to many disruptions of
service on the freeway.
Criteria used to spot an unusual situation in a construction site or freeway include:
- Vehicle has no company logos (vehicles would be Caltrans or contractor car with information on the sides)
- No use of traffic control devices (cones, amber lights or signs), note that any work along the side of a freeway would likely include a shoulder closure
- Individuals are not wearing safety vests, jackets or other personal protective equipment (PPE)
- If it does not pass the “sniff test”:
- Does this person(s) meet Occ safety requirements? (Think about what kinds of safety measures workers take while you have a Cozeep. Does something not seem right?)
- Does the situation look right? Unfortunately there is no standard identification card or standardized paperwork required for Caltrans construction/maintenance projects. The totality
of the situation needs to be assessed to glean indicators and prove criminal misconduct.
If a situation does not look right, ask direct questions such as:
- What company do you work for?
- Request to view a set of contract plans for the work:
- People at a job site should have a set of construction plans, however, Emergency Directors Orders projects may not always have them.
- Contractors should know the assigned Caltrans job/contract number.
- Who is your boss?
- Employee shall have contracto contact information readily available to assist with confirmation.
- Employee shall know who they work for and the contact information.
- Who is the Resident Enginner (RE) for Caltrans assigned to the project? (The RE should be within the area for any work being done and available to respond)
- Employee shall know who the Caltrans inspector for the job site is and their contact information
- Caltrans inspector shall be at the job site or within the immediate area and be able to respond quickly upon request.
- When conacting the individuals, consider utilizing Field Interview (FI) cards to assist with follow-up and possible future leads.
Course of Action:
Areas should have an ongoing dialogue with their Caltrans counterparts about construction and maintenance projects so you can be aware of potential targets. Please
continue to encourage officers to notify and report. It is an Area's responsibility to take an appropriate SSP report for stolen copper on a freeway/state property. Caltrans can
assist in determining a dollar value associated with an incident and providing appropriate documentation.
When/where possible, Officers should make contact with everyone they see stopped on the freeway fitting this description of activity.
Officer safety is paramount. Copper theft can easily rise to the level of a felony violation due to the thousands of dollars it costs per incident.