Fed Way asking for public's help catching wire thieves

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- The city is stepping up its game against a rising number of copper thefts.

But with a sparse budget, city leaders figure they're going to have to rely on the public to thwart the thieves.

Thieves have stolen from Celebration Park three times, ripping the copper wiring from the light poles. Now the city says anyone, even kids, can play a big role in stopping the crimes.

"The kids are the ones that tend to say, 'That looks odd,'" says Perry Woodford, tournament director of the Federal Way Soccer Association.

Woodford is sounding the alarm about the growing problem of copper thefts. The park was hit in August when thieves stole $30,000 worth of copper wiring from the light posts. It threatened to leave a huge tournament in the dark until the city quickly fixed the damage.

Federal Way has already spent more than $100,000 on fixing copper theft damage, and the cost continues to climb.

Too cash-strapped to simply add more officers, the city is asking for citizens help.

"Like most cities we have a very lean budget," said Chris Carrel, the city's communications coordinator. "They're (The thieves are) very slippery and very sneaky, and that's one of the reasons why we need the public to help us."

Frequent park-goers are now on the defense, watching and waiting for the thieves to strike again.

"If we saw someone over there tampering with it, we wouldn't think a whole lot of it. But now that we know about it, certainly (we) would have a word with them," said park visitor Bryan Iotte.

Everyday, whether it's soccer, baseball or another sport, the park is used. Federal Way is hoping others will get in the game of taking back not just the parks, but the entire city.

"It's kind of like a neighborhood watch for our parks and our public street lights," Carrel said.

Residents are urged to call if they spot an unmarked utility car or if someone looks like he or she is fixing something really late in the day. Residents can download flyers online. The city hopes people will spread the word in person and online.