Theft leaves Daly City's Jefferson field in dark

The John Madden lights at Jefferson High School will not shine anytime soon after thieves snipped, clipped and escaped with more than a half-mile of copper wire.

Roughly 3,000 feet of wire from four light poles — dedicated as the Madden lights in 2000 after pro football coach and analyst John Madden, the school’s famous alumnus — was stolen by cutting the wire at the field’s electrical box and then once more at the light pole, said Jefferson Union High School District Superintendent Michael Crilly.

The culprits then pulled the expensive wire from its underground tubing underneath the football field and got away with it. Based on local estimates of the wire’s value, the thieves may have made off with more than $7,000 in copper.

Daly City Police are investigating the theft after the loss was discovered Monday morning, said Capt. Mike Edwards.

Crilly said he did not expect the missing copper to affect Jefferson’s football season, adding that the district was looking into the cost to repair the lights. At times speechless with disgust, Crilly said it took “nerve” to pull a stunt like this.

“Here we are trying to get things ready for school, and here some selfish thief comes along and steals from kids,” said Crilly. “It doesn’t get any lower than that.”

The theft of copper wire from abandoned buildings and construction sites has become an epidemic in the U.S. as the cost of copper has increased from $1 in recent years to upward of $3 last year. The price has reportedly fallen this year due to a slowdown in U.S. construction.

Two men, Ernest Lovett and Robert Lee Williams, pled not guilty in San Mateo County Superior Court Monday to charges including an attempt to sell an estimated $15,000 in stolen copper out of the back of a stolen U-Haul truck in San Carlos. The owner of a recycling center called the police after becoming suspicious of the men.

Jimmy Stewart Jr., a metals buyer with San Francisco’s Bay Area Metals, said thick wiring with the insulation on it goes for roughly $2 a pound, while stripped wiring, or “bright and shiny” because its insulation has been taken off, is around $2.50, depending on thickness.

Stewart said that it has grown increasingly difficult for stolen copper to be sold to recycling depots and scrap yards because businesses are on the watch for stolen goods.

“This is a new thing right now — it’s easy money,” Stewart Jr. said. “Because of the increase, the thefts, we’re trying our best to keep” thieves from profiting.

dsmith@examiner.com

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