SURREY - The City of Surrey is looking at replacing all the copper wire in street lights with aluminum wire in the hope such a move will deter metal thieves.
The spot price for copper is $3.32 per pound, and 81 cents for aluminum.
Wire thieves wreak havoc on the city, sometimes leaving thousands of residents without 911 emergency service when they chop and steal wire to make a quick buck on the salvage market.
"We cannot continue along the vein where we're losing millions of dollars every year, taking away millions from other services to pay for theft," Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said.
The city spends roughly $250,000 monthly to repair the damage done by wire thieves.
"Due to the vast size of Surrey and the expensive network of street lights, we are finding it very challenging to protect our copper wire assests," Watts said.
The city's number crunchers are analyzing the situation and estimate that a city-wide change over from copper to aluminum would cost about $10 million to $12 million.
City Hall also might install technology that monitors circuit voltage drops in streetlights, enabling police to catch thieves in the act.
Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode, chairwoman of the city's community safety committee, noted that during the past year the city has already been replacing stolen copper with aluminum and says it's proving to be a "most effective tactic" in curbing theft. Since May 2011 more than 11,000 metres of aluminum wire has been installed, with no significant thefts being reported since from those locations.
The Surrey RCMP made 35 arrests last year related to wire theft, making for a slight decrease in the problem.