INDOT on the lookout for highway lighting wire thieves

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It is one of those things we all take for granted until it's not there.  Many lights along the interstate off ramps and rest areas are not working.

By light of day it seems perfectly normal. But take a closer look and you'll realize someone has their wires crossed.

"Thieves are stealing wiring out of our highway lighting poles," Debbie Calder said as we looked at a pole that had the front cover popped off. The plate was taken off and the wires were gutted.

"They are somehow popping them off and pulling the wire out between the poles and what we can assume is they are selling it to scrap yards for cash. We are talking live electrical wire so we are assuming they know what they are doing," Calder continued.

These thieves have been active along I-70 at both Plainfield rest areas east and west, and the 1-70 off ramps at 231 and State Road 39.  But it's not exclusive to I-70.  The Indiana Toll Road has been struck up north, along with I-80/94 and the northern portion of the I-65 corridor.

For motorists, it is much more than an inconvenience.

"I know it's strange. I know the power company has to worry about wires being pulled," Myron Miller observed. He was passing through the rest area on I-70 at Plainfield.

"We need rest areas to take a break and get out and walk around and lighting is good for security.  Need to keep everything intact if we could," Wayne Miller, a truck driver from Dayton, Ohio, said.

The safety issue alone makes this a big deal but add the fact that it has already cost the state $200,000 to fix and replace the wiring. It is also turning into a very big financial problem.

"If you see somebody, they might even look official, working on this please call 911.  If you see something, say something," Calder added.

That is why INDOT is working in conjunction with Indiana State Police in attempt to catch the culprits. It is a big job. With over 1,000 highway light poles in INDOT's west central district alone, it underscores the need for cooperation from motorists.

What you can do

Drivers should call 911 if they see anyone around highway lighting poles. Whether the person is dressed in official highway safety gear and uniform or not, the public is asked to call. ISP will investigate all individuals around lighting poles.

ISP will arrive on the scene and investigate anyone working on or around highway lighting. Official highway lighting workers will be required to show proof of their license to be in the area. Without proper identification, the individual may be arrested.