JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Central Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons, along with Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) staff, joined Jackson leaders and state officials to discuss the ongoing copper theft and litter issues in the metro area on Thursday, August 4.
“We are having some serious problems in the inner city of Jackson on our interstate system in two folds. One is with the lighting, and the second is with the litter being put on our interstate system. This is going on near I-55 and I-220 to some degree and I-20. Individuals are going to our lighting poles and actually pulling to copper out of the pole and making it impossible for us to provide lighting on the highway system,” explained Simmons.
Simmons was joined by MDOT Executive Director Brad White, Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner Sean Tindell, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, and President of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors Credell Calhoun.
“We talked about trying to make it more difficult with our box system, what happens is our box has locks on it, but they’re actually breaking into the box and going in and cutting the cable and hooking it onto a truck and pulling it from under the ground. Law enforcement will be working with us to come up with more surveillance, whether it be through cameras or observation from time to time to catch those individuals who are doing it,” said Simmons.
For several years, MDOT has dealt with the theft of copper electrical wire from high-mast and other interstate lighting systems in the Jackson area. These thefts have resulted in the interstate lights not working, leaving Jackson highways dark at night, which presents safety challenges for motorists.
“If you go out there and pull the copper out of one of those and we have to replace it, we could be talking anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. It gets dark in these areas when you are traveling and that creates a safety issue for the public and that’s one that we can’t tolerate. That’s the purpose of the lighting being on the interstate system is to light the highways and make them safer,” said Simmons.
The public is urged to contact local law enforcement if they see this type of criminal activity. Thefts of copper wire have cost MDOT nearly $800,000 to replace and repair in recent years.