For the second time in four years, thieves have stripped the electrical copper wiring from a soccer park in Windsor, darkening the lights on the playing field.
The theft at Wilson Ranch Soccer Park involved the removal of more than a half-mile of thick copper wiring and will cost an estimated $10,000 to fix and replace.
After the last theft in late 2008, the town took extra measures to avoid a repeat by locking the boxes leading to the wires.
"The unfortunate part is we had gone a little further to make the lids for the boxes a little more secure with a special tool to access the screws," said Tony Troia, Windsor facilities supervisor. "They found a way to pry and break it on all of them."
The most recent loss was discovered Jan. 16. If there was a good side to the thievery, it's that it took place when the fields are not used that much.
"As far as the impact, it's pretty low this time of year because of the weather," said Jon Davis, Windsor recreation division manager.
He said some Ultimate Frisbee players and a couple of soccer teams that practice on the field at night had to find other places to play.
But the 700 or so youngsters in the Windsor Youth Soccer League who use it from August through October weren't immediately impacted.
Soccer league officials, however, immediately began soliciting funds to make the lights operable again.
The Town of Windsor agreed to pay the entire bill to get the lights working, but the soccer league nevertheless wanted to help out.
"We thought we would put out the call for donations to see what money we can come up with. City budgets are tight," said Jeremy Kimball, president of the soccer league.
Located at the corner of Mitchell Lane and Cameron Drive, the soccer facility also is near the railroad tracks and next to an industrial area.
"It's such an isolated place, especially in the middle of the night," said Jim O'Brien, Windsor's park and maintenance supervisor.
Windsor officials believe the thieves worked in a darkened area where they probably wrapped the thick wiring around the bumper of a vehicle to extricate it.
The risk of electrocution can make stealing wiring dangerous. But the thief or thieves could have used a voltage tester to make sure the circuit was dead, and also employed well-insulated wire cutters, according to officials.
Thefts of copper and other metal objects have been a problem in recent years, particularly as prices for scrap metal increased with demand in China and elsewhere overseas.
After dipping in late 2008 to around $1.30 a pound, the price increased steadily to $4.50 a pound in 2011, according to Infomine.com. Currently it's about $3.65 a pound.
To cash in on the recycled metal market, criminals have struck PG&amp;E yards, railroad crossing-arm control boxes, air conditioning and heating units and have even stripped wiring from traffic signals.
Memorials have also been targeted, including a bronze Vietnam veterans plaque that recently was stolen in Petaluma.
Windsor Police Sgt. Jim Naugle said there does not appear to be a rash of copper thefts in town.
Windsor officials say they plan to take some extra measures to make the boxes that access the wires more difficult to open. They also may add security lighting to avoid a third rip-off at the soccer park.