SF Examiner file photoTracked down: BART police say they know the identity of the person who was caught stealing copper wire.

Brassy thief pilfers copper from BART tracks

BART police are hunting a slippery copper crook whose thieving antics forced a train operator to hit the brakes Sunday.

A speeding train was forced to stop around 10 a.m. Sunday to avoid striking a thief who was pilfering copper wiring directly from the trackway between the Balboa Park and Daly City stations, according to BART cops and an agency employee with knowledge of the situation.

The crook also is suspected in the Friday morning theft of copper from a trackway just before 2 a.m., BART police spokeswoman Era Jenkins said.

BART police know the suspect, Jenkins said. His identity is not being released due to the ongoing investigation.

“Detectives are actively working on … search warrants,” Jenkins said.

The crook managed to elude law enforcement on Friday, according to the anonymous BART employee, who was not authorized to speak to the media. The suspect’s vehicle was apparently parked illegally near the tracks. Officers who spotted the car called for a tow truck.

“They probably weren’t even aware that he was on the tracks,” the employee said. “I guess they didn’t realize at the time that his vehicle was loaded with BART stuff.”

After the officers left and the tow truck was preparing to take the vehicle away, the thief returned and somehow got his vehicle back, the employee said.

While BART has dealt with copper wire thefts before, the number of such incidents have increased recently, transit agency spokesman Jim Allison said.

The thefts, which mostly occur overnight when trains aren’t running, can be hazardous to both the system and the thieves, Allison said.

“Trains come by sometimes at 80 miles per hour,” he said. “They can come up on people without them even realizing it.”

Thieves target two types of copper wires on BART’s trackway. One returns electricity from the electric third rail to the transit agency’s power supply. Pulling that wiring can cause stray currents potentially able to cause fires, Allison said.

The other targeted cables supply information to the BART center that monitors train locations. Without those cables, BART has a reduced ability to track where its trains are, which can at times lead to false information that causes trains to slow down or stop.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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