CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – Copper thieves have not been wasting time cashing in on new lighting being installed in the East Lakeview neighborhood.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has sent out an e-mail alert to ward residents, asking them to be on the lookout for people stealing copper wire from light poles.

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LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

New residential street lighting was installed on Melrose Street, Aldine Avenue and Buckingham Place, between Halsted Street and Broadway, in December and January.

New lighting was also installed on Fremont, Wolfram and George streets this winter. The new lighting structures are silver in color and in addition to the standard light over the street, they also feature a second lamp, on the sidewalk side, to better illuminate the way for pedestrians.

Authorities believe the thieves are operating during the day when power to the posts is turned off. The thieves may be dressed as electrical crews when they cut the wires by day and then return at night to pull out the copper cable. 

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“We don’t know who is perpetrating this, but it is someone who has a working knowledge of how these systems work,” Chicago Transportation Department Brian Steele said.

Tunney says the posts coast about $100,000 a block to install. To date, the thieves have cost the city $30,000 in repairs. City crews have been working to repair those lights, and weld the service panels shut, Tunney said.

The alderman urged any residents who see anyone trying to break into a street light panel to call 911 and report the incident to police, with the location and a detailed description of the offender.

Henry Weinchek noticed something amiss Sunday night as he was walking his pug, Nixon, past some of the streetlights that had been vandalized. He saw severed and exposed wires. His dog got dangerously close.

“I figured, well, that’s not good ,” Weinchek told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.

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The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.