Las Vegas police are working to crack down on copper wire thefts with a new task force

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) — Copper wire thieves have caused very expensive repairs for many Valley businesses and ratepayers. FOX5 has revealed the story of copper wire thieves hitting freeway lights at the Spaghetti Bowl. More recently, we reported how thieves hit freeway lights on US 95 near Boulder Highway.

While the Spaghetti Bowl lights were fixed, the lights in US 95 were not, forcing people to drive in darker conditions there.

The thieves knocked out numerous streetlights in Clark County. The county says copper wire thieves vandalized 95 locations around the valley.

“Clark County approached us, their public works. And they noticed a lot of street lights that were hit and copper wires were pulled out of them. And as a result, you don’t have street lights, or maybe you don’t have operational signals,” said Joshua Martinez, who is the captain of the Las Metropolitan Police Department’s enterprise area command. Vegas.

The captain said that over the past two months, LVMPD has partnered with Henderson and North Las Vegas police to form a copper wire theft task force. The three agencies now share flight information. And the captain says the task force has already generated three arrests of suspects, including Brian Welch. The captain says the department can link Welch to the theft of copper wire from 87 streetlights, with more than $100,000 in repair costs. The captain says Welch tried to blend in while stealing copper wire during the day while wearing a construction helmet and a yellow traffic vest.

“For anyone driving daily to think that this individual was out there doing some type of public works,” Martinez said.

Martinez says investigators were able to uncover more than 300 scrapping transactions by Welch.

He says they also arrested two other suspects, Ruben Montejano and John Werns. The captain says they worked together to steal copper wire from cellphone towers, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

An arrest report says Werns made 73 copper transactions between December 2021 and May 2022. The report says that during that time he sold 6,652 pounds of copper wire for more than $23,000.

NDOT still working to fix US 95 freeway lights after copper wire theft report in late April

“They were identified thanks to the good work of the police on the streets. Our patrolmen went to see something suspicious around a cell tower because we were briefing it. And they were able to identify those individuals and passed that information on to our investigators. And we were able to follow up and find out that these people also had a high number of transactions. And we were able to take them into custody and hold them accountable,” Martinez said.

He added: “You won’t have the luxury of victimizing the community to feed your addiction.”

People are asked to report any street lights that are out so they can be repaired, as well as to call the police if they see anything suspicious around street lights or other infrastructure. The public is also urged to file a police report for a copper wire theft, even if it was a year or two ago. Many victims do not file a complaint. Police say a report will help them identify possible patterns, where patterns could be occurring and could help identify suspects.

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