Mesa officials are turning to citizens in an effort to help prevent wire thefts throughout the city, and they’re offering up to $6,000 in reward money through Silent Witness.

About 2 a.m. Wednesday, Mesa police arrested Jason Whitehead, 29, on suspicion of aggravated criminal damage after police received an anonymous tip that he and another man were stripping the copper wire out of street lights in the neighborhood near the 10900 block of East Simon Avenue in Mesa earlier this month. After setting up surveillance on the two men, police observed them driving to the intersection of Simone and St. Claire where they proceeded to take copper wiring from the box of the nearby streetlight, according to police. Whitehead was caught, but another man, whose identity is known to police, remains free.

Since 2003, police and city parks and transportation officials say the city has replaced about $1 million worth of wire stolen on street signals, park lights and even water purification devices. With the high cost of copper and brass, and the theft being done with relatively no cost and a small amount of risk to thieves, the problem has become an epidemic. The city is asking its residents to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods and are quick to say that no one should be working in city parks, or conducting maintenance on street lights, after dark.

Since July, 35,000 linear feet of wiring has been stolen from Mesa’s parks alone, affecting both adult and youth baseball and softball schedules at a $65,000 cost to the city, said Marc Heirshberg, director of the city’s parks, recreation and commercial facilities.

Theft of copper and other metals such as brass on utility fixtures is widespread throughout the city and not concentrated in one area, said city transportation director Dan Cleavenger.

Since July, 94,353 feet of wire has been stolen from the city’s streetlights, costing the city more than $161,000 an causing a safety concern on the streets since it takes about two weeks to replace the wiring, Cleavenger said.

“The theft of copper wire is not only dangerous for the thief, but also dangerous for pedestrians and drivers using the darkened streets,” he said.

If anyone sees any suspicious activity, they can make an anonymous call to Silent Witness at (480) 948-6377.

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