Two men were allegedly caught today in the act of stealing copper wiring from street lights in Hemet.
Dennis Copeland, 42, and Kevin St. John, 44 — both of Hemet — were booked into the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of grand theft for allegedly ripping circuitry out of light poles at Warren Road and Devonshire Avenue.
Bail information was not immediately available.
According to Hemet police Lt. Eric Dickson, an observant resident driving west on Florida Avenue around 2:45 a.m. spotted a street light blinking out on Warren Road and became suspicious.
The witness turned onto Warren, heading toward Devonshire, and noticed two men hovering near a light, Dickson said. Aware of a spate of copper wire thefts in the area in which electrical equipment was pulled out of public lights, causing thousands of dollars in damage, the motorist called the police, according to the lieutenant.
A patrol unit arrived moments later.
“Officers located evidence that implicated these two as being involved in copper theft,” Dickson said. “A vehicle belonging to one of the men was located some distance away. In the vehicle, officers found additional evidence of theft and several hundred feet of copper wire.”
Dickson said copper thefts have been rampant throughout the Hemet Valley.
The Inland Empire has been plagued by metals-related theft for the last six-plus years as commodities prices have risen. A Riverside County law enforcement task force concluded in 2008 that most of the thefts were committed by drug users.