Copper Wire Theft in Santa Monica

November 1, 2023 9:33 AM
by Allen Issagholian, Jessie Burch

The City of Santa Monica maintains more than 6,000 streetlights that support visibility on roadways and sidewalks. With copper wire theft on the rise, the City is asking for community members to assist in the effort in identifying thieves by reporting suspicious activity.

Stealing wire from streetlights is illegal and leaves neighborhoods, roads, bike lanes and sidewalks dark for extended periods of time. While this issue is not unique from other cities and municipalities across the nation, this illegal activity causes damage to internal conduits which affects the entire system and takes time, resources and funding to repair and replace along with the missing wire.

If you see something, say something. For suspected thefts in progress, dial 9-1-1 immediately.

Thieves will typically tamper with pull boxes labeled “Street Lighting”, ‘Electrical”, or ‘High Voltage” in the parkway or sidewalk. There are very few reasons outside of theft that anyone would need access to these boxes. It is suspicious if someone is trying to gain access without a City vehicle parked nearby. 

All work that City crews undertake in these utilities are distinguishable. City staff wear the City emblem on their gear and always travel in City vehicles that bear the city emblem. To report suspected wire theft that has already taken place, please call the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) Dispatch at 310-458-8491.

Residents, businesses and visitors of our City are additional eyes and ears for what is happening in our community. We know how important properly maintained streetlights are to the quality of life for those that live, visit and do business in Santa Monica. Any information, vigilance and cooperation are greatly appreciated.

If you suspect that theft of copper wiring is taking place, please call and report this to SMPD by calling 9-1-1. To report suspected wire theft that has already taken place, please call SMPD Dispatch at 310-458-8491.

Please reach out to us if you have any general questions at

The City is struggling with keeping neighborhood streetlights functioning due to the sheer scale of wire theft being seen throughout the City. In addition, supply chain issues and staffing shortages are contributing factors to longer streetlight maintenance response times. For these reasons, the City has been severely impacted in regard to its maintenance efforts and overall response times.

As efforts to bring back streetlights damaged from wire theft is underway, affected streets will remain dark as the City manages multiple repairs that continue to grow due to the sheer magnitude of thefts.

Please see below for a list of frequently asked questions regarding copper wire theft in Santa Monica. 

Authored By

Allen Issagholian
Street Services Superintendent

Jessie Burch
Project Support Assistant


Programs, Safety