PUYALLUP - A Puyallup man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing copper wire from an Auburn site while posing as a construction worker.
A subcontractor working on a project along state Route 167 near 15th Street Southwest spotted a van surrounded by orange cones in the median early Thursday. A man wearing an orange construction vest and hard hat was near the area and working on an electrical junction box that was next to a light pole, the Washington State Patrol reported. The man was in an area that was not scheduled for work.
When the subcontractor tried to contact the man, the man ran into his vehicle and took off, troopers reported. The subcontractor called the State Patrol, and several troopers responded.
More than three hours later, a trooper spotted a person in dark clothing working in the same spot. The person was not wearing a safety vest or hard hat, troopers reported. Several troopers responded and, as they approached the man, he ran across the highway.
The troopers chased and caught the man. They found cable cutters on him. In his car, troopers found sections of cut wire, the State Patrol reported.
In the area where the man was working, troopers discovered that about 8,400 feet of copper wire had been removed. The removed wire was worth about $4,500. Five other junction boxes had been dug up and their wires exposed.
Troopers booked the 38-year-old man into King County Jail on suspicion of theft.
The arrest highlights the continuing problem of copper wire theft in the Puget Sound region. In recent months, the Washington State Patrol has been investigating the theft of materials from state Department of Transportation construction sites and maintenance facilities.
Law enforcement agencies cite the increased value of copper and other recyclable materials as the reason for the thefts of copper wire and other construction-related materials.