A crime wave hitting cities in Illinois and Chicago could slow your commute.

Thieves are stealing copper wire from the South Shore Line, trading it in for cash. It has happened more than a dozen times over the past couple of months, and now police are asking for your help, CBS 2’s Pamela Jones reports.

South Shore trains fly down the rails, but vandals are threatening to stop some of them in their tracks. Thieves are stealing copper electrical wire near the train tracks.

“It’s at epidemic levels for us right now,” says Bob Byrd of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Police.

It has happened 15 times since Aug. 30 – in Chicago, Burnham, Hammond, Gary and Portage.

When the cables get cut, red signals automatically tell train operators to stop. Train traffic comes to a halt, and that can mean big delays for commuters.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to get our electricians out here in the middle of the night to make some quick temporary repairs and keep the trains running with minimal delays to our passengers,” Byrd says.

The thefts have cost the South Shore Line $100,000 so far. Each time someone swipes the wires, crews have to rush out to replace it immediately so train service can keep rolling.

Salvage yards are paying around $2.75 a pound for copper right now. But the person who turns these criminals in could really cash in.

There’s a reward of up to $5,000 for the arrest and conviction of the suspects.

“We’re hopeful we’re going to make an arrest in these cases,” Byrd says.

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