Letters to the Editor: L.A. has stopped wire theft before. Here’s how to do it for the 6th Street Viaduct

Arches on the 6th Street Viaduct are dark because of copper wire theft on Dec. 21, 2023.
Arches on the 6th Street Viaduct are dark because of copper wire theft on Dec. 21, 2023.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: While managing construction of the new Metro Blue Line (now A Line) in 1989, I attended an event in Japan with then-L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley. At the event, Mayor Bradley asked me how things were going with construction back home. I told him that we were having problems with constant theft of copper cables. (“Copper thieves leave 6th Street Bridge — the ‘Ribbon of Light’ — completely in the dark,” June 13)

The mayor wrote down the names of two Los Angeles Police Department leaders on a piece of paper and told me to speak with them when I returned home.

At the LAPD, I explained the problem and was instructed to bring photographs of the kinds of items that were being stolen. Many of these items were unique to transit systems and not common to the area. The LAPD then distributed the photographs to every scrap dealer in the area (and there were many), advising them that these were stolen goods.


Also, they suggested that we heavily coat these copper cables with axle grease. They were confident that even simple measures like this would help deter thieves.

So that’s what we did, and these measures were 100% successful. L.A.’s first modern rail transit line opened right on schedule on July 14, 1990.

Today, as the person who was the principal in charge for the design of the 6th Street Viaduct, I cannot help but think about what kinds of simple, practical, low-cost measures might be available to help get this new landmark glowing again. As Mayor Bradley well understood, it’s always about asking the right questions and getting the right people involved in solving the problem.

Edward McSpedon, West Hills


To the editor: It is so depressing to read about the blatant theft of valuable copper wire from the beautiful new viaduct.

This would not be happening at all if aluminum conductor were used instead of copper. Copper is better in several ways, but aluminum works fine as long as its design requirements are met. Copper can carry about twice the load as aluminum for a given size, so conduit and pull boxes need to be larger for aluminum wiring.


There are also all kinds of locking devices for electrical pull boxes. Electricians don’t like them because they require special tools and take more time to lock and unlock — but they work if properly installed and maintained.

The fact that some of these thefts have taken place in broad daylight is a sad reflection on police patrol frequency and the fact that officers are too busy dealing with homeless encampments, street takeovers and other theft.

To passers-by, the thieves might look like legitimate workers. Of course, what typical person on the street is going to call the cops for something like that?

So, let’s stop putting precious metal in the street when the job can be done with less costly material.

Roger Krenkler, Westlake Village



To the editor: According to your article, in the last year there have been 6,713 cases of copper wire theft in Los Angeles, costing the taxpayers $2.5 million.

I’ve been personally targeted by thieves for two catalytic converters, which were extremely expensive to replace.

Why are these crimes tolerated? When is enough enough? It would seem like there must be some way of punishing the people who commit these crimes that would make their efforts unprofitable.

The thieves themselves and the buyers of these “precious metals” must both be held accountable.

Peter Marquard, Northridge