CHICAGO (WBBM/STMW) – A reward is being offered for information leading to copper thieves who are causing delays on the South Shore commuter line.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya Reports

The police chief for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District tells CBS 2’s Pamela Jones that the South Shore line has lost more than $100,000 in signal cable. Thieves have been stealing it to sell to copper recyclers. Salvage yards are paying about $2.75 pound for the metal.

Now, a $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the thieves being arrested and convicted..

When the copper wire is stolen from signals, the signals will only flash red, which causes South Shore commuter trains to operate at very slow speeds.

Police Chief Robert Byrd says there have been 15 thefts since late August.

The most recent theft occurred Tuesday night west of the Adam Benjamin Metro Center in Gary, Ind., Byrd said.

The cables are about 1 1/4 inches in diameter and up to 200 feet long, but thieves often strip them down to shorter pieces “so it’s less recognizable,” Byrd said. Scrap dealers rarely question the source of the metal presented to them, he added.

Anyone with information about the thefts can call transit police at 398-6000. The district will pay for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of suspects.

Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports copper theft is a cyclical problem for the South Shore. It happens any time the price of copper goes up and slackens off when it drops.

The South Shore is good at getting crews to locations where the signal wires have been cut so they can splice them back together.

It’s far more difficult to steal the overhead wire, or catenary, which is electrified at 1500 volts DC and provides power to the trains. That would be far more costly to replace.

In fact, South Shore is in the midst of replacing the catenary system, which has shut down the line east of Gary on weekends seven times this year.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

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