Gateway: Sports

After yet another copper wire theft, Gig Harbor athletic director left wondering what else can be done

Copper wire thieves hit Gig Harbor High School in late March, digging through thick slabs of cement to get into the electrical boxes.
Copper wire thieves hit Gig Harbor High School in late March, digging through thick slabs of cement to get into the electrical boxes. jmanley@gateline.com

After being hit with another copper wire theft on the school’s upper fields in late March, Gig Harbor athletic director Bob Werner and district officials are left wondering what else they can do.

Werner said it’s the third time a copper wire theft has occurred in his six-year tenure. At first, criminals were breaking locks on steel plates to get into the wire. The school poured cement to cover the wire after that. This time? The thieves dug into the cement, seemingly by hand, to remove the entire electrical box.

“We had about eight-inches thick cement,” Werner said. “They just get under there with crowbars and stuff. I don’t know how many guys they had working on it.”

This time, three electrical boxes had been dug up and the wiring had been removed, according to the Gig Harbor police report. The wire was valued at approximately $1,000. The cost to repair the lights was estimated at $60,000. The school asked for extra patrols because they were afraid the suspect may come back for the other lights’ wiring.

The school has cameras, but is struggling to find security solutions for the copper wire.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” Werner said. “Someone suggested that we can leave some of these things hot, and whoever is trying to steal it can get a pretty good jolt. But I worry about the liability with that.”

Gig Harbor chief police Kelly Busey concurred.

“You can’t set a booby trap,” Busey said. “And with cameras, what do we get from those usually? An overhead shot of someone in a hooded sweatshirt and a ball cap. So when we took another step to secure things, who would’ve thought they would dig up the box?”

What baffles Busey is the amount of work the thieves put in for a small amount of cash. He estimates they’re making a couple hundred dollars for their trouble.

“They’re doing lots of damage for pennies on the dollar in return,” Busey said. “It’s really unfortunate. It’s just crazy the amount of effort they put into it.”

In the past, thieves have hit a string of fields in a row. Werner warned Peninsula athletic director Ross Filkins and the Gig Harbor Little League after the incident in March.

The lights at Gig Harbor High School are fixed and ready to go again.

For now, Werner is left hoping the fields just don’t get hit again.

“We’ve gotten pretty used to this,” he said.

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151, @gateway_jon
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