MDOT says portions of MS interstates will remain dark, copper wire thieves are to blame

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Certain areas of Mississippi’s interstates will continue to be without street lights for the time being.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation said it’s because of copper wire theft.

It’s an issue the agency describes as a Catch-22.

On one hand, continuously replacing the same lights wastes taxpayer dollars. But on the other hand, not replacing the lights leaves many Mississippi drivers in the dark.

“The last time they were repaired and replaced, they didn’t last but about a month or so before they were stolen again,” MDOT spokesperson Michael Flood said.

Copper wire thieves have presented challenges for MDOT since at least 2019.

“I don’t have an exact figure on how much it has cost, but I know, in years past, it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix and repair and replace these lights that get stolen as well as the copper wiring and the components to go with it,” Flood said.

The crooks are also causing dangerous road conditions for those traveling along parts of I-20, I-220, and I-55.

WLBT has been on the scene of several crashes with few or no working street lights in the area, including I-55 North near Fortification Street as well as near Lakeland Drive.

Flood said copper wire theft is an issue all over the country, but in Mississippi, it primarily happens in the Jackson metro area.

“That said, not every light that is out is due to copper wire theft. The majority of them are, but we do have some that are out that will be repaired,” he said. “We’ve only got four guys that repair these lights, and they maintain the entire area.”

The agency told us back in 2019 that they wouldn’t replace the lights most frequently hit by thieves until all those responsible were locked up.

Nearly three years later, the department said its brainstorming ways to prevent the theft but couldn’t name any specific solutions.

One thing worth noting is that MDOT used to have an enforcement division that helped crack down on the issue.

That division is now under Mississippi Highway Patrol, meaning MDOT is now relying on local law enforcement and the public to stop the criminals.

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