California City Resorts to Removing Traffic Lights to Prevent Nearby Homeless Community From Stealing Copper

By: Beth Moreton | Published: May 26, 2024

Homelessness appears to be an issue all over the US, with Oakland, California, currently dealing with homeless people stealing copper from the city.

Despite previous attempts to stop this problem, it didn’t seem to do much, since they were still able to steal the copper. As a result, the city has now had to remove the traffic lights and replace them with temporary stop signs to try to tackle the issue.

California Has the Highest Homelessness Rate

Due to how expensive it is to live there, California has the highest homelessness rate across the US. However, it does have plans on how to address and solve this problem.

Blue tents and cardboard outside a red brick building.

Source: @PlasticJesus9/X

Proposition 1 was passed in March 2024, which provided $6 billion to start building treatment beds and housing for homeless people suffering from mental illness. California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, has said that he believes this to be a national model that other states can follow.


Underground Homeless Encampments

California is no stranger to homeless encampments. However, what was discovered in January 2024 was a homeless encampment in underground caves that are beneath California.

Inside the caves in California. There is some rubbish left in there, which has been left by homeless people.

Source: @BerthaR40947819/X

Even though these encampments were cleared out once they were discovered, there is still every chance that those who had been living there would return because they had nowhere else to go.

California’s $12 Billion Homelessness Plan

Due to the sheer number of homelessness in California, the state plans on doing something about it. So much so, that in May 2024 it announced its $12 billion plan to tackle homelessness.

There are homeless tents outside some buildings with graffiti. A person is riding a bike past the tents.

Source: @heather_wynalda/X

The bill proposes clear restrictions on where homeless individuals can set up encampments. It specifically targets school areas, parks, and transit stops to offer safety and cleanliness within Californian communities.

Four-Way Traffic Lights Removed

In Oakland, California, the four-way traffic lights at an intersection have had to be removed because homeless people living in that area stealing the copper wires from the lights, which has caused issues with them.

A red stop sign at the intersection where there were previously traffic lights.

Source: @TicTokTick/X

This is the latest in many attempts to stop the problem after the other attempts failed. Only time will tell whether this actually works or whether the thieves will return.

The Intersection Was Dangerous to Drive Through

As the thieves were stealing and tampering with the copper wires, this was causing issues with the traffic lights. Because of this, the intersection was becoming dangerous to drive through.

The intersection in Oakland, California, where the traffic lights have been replaced. Some traffic is on the road, and buildings are along the side.

Source: @whatsn2day/X

The traffic lights weren’t working often, causing many near misses when people were driving through. While the stop signs are a somewhat welcomed measure, this is a long-term problem that needs to be properly dealt with.


Putting Cement Over the Electrical Box

One previous effort to prevent the thieves from stealing and tampering with the copper wires was to put cement over the boxes they were kept in.

The empty electric box that people took copper wires from.

Source: KPIX/YouTube

However, not even cement could stop the criminals, because they were still entering the boxes to take the copper. The latest efforts are only temporary until they can find a more permanent fixture to try to stop the problem.


Cleaning up the Homeless Encampment

Despite these new preventative measures being put into place, Oakland’s residents aren’t as convinced and say that what the city should be doing is cleaning up the nearby homeless encampment to stop it from happening again.

Homeless tents on the side of the road. A man is putting some stuff into a bag.

Source: @ScottBaio/X

The residents also feel the city is giving up on them, as stop signs can only be a temporary measure, and the city isn’t actually doing anything to help the local community with these problems.


Tesla Charging Station Copper Stolen

The copper from the traffic lights isn’t the first time copper has been stolen in California. Thieves have also been stealing the copper wires from Tesla charging stations, as they can be bought for $3 per pound.

A person holding one of the Tesla chargers that has had the copper stolen from out of it.

Source: @PicturesFoIder/X

Copper was stolen from all of the Tesla charging stations, and this has happened numerous other times at these charging stations as well.


Oakland’s Violence Problem

With the rise in homelessness comes a rise in violence, something Oakland’s residents need the city to do something about. It is becoming difficult to walk down its streets without witnessing or being the victim of a crime.

A smashed and broken glass door with a black frame.

Source: Amber Kipp/Unsplash

This is another reason why its residents are asking the city to clean up the homeless encampment and provide help and support for those living there to try to put a stop to it.


Homelessness Affects Businesses

Business owners are also worried about the worrying homeless problem. Businesses situated in homeless encampment areas are losing customers, which is causing their businesses to take a hit.

A blue sign in the window says, “Sorry, we’re closed.”

Source: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

This is partly why business owners are calling for Oakland to solve the homelessness problem: They are worried about their businesses going under if the problem persists for much longer.


Homeless Encampments Show No Signs of Stopping

At what might come as a bit of a blow to local businesses and residents, the homeless encampments are only continuing to grow and are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping.

A homeless encampment. There are tents and large pieces of material hanging up next to a campervan.

Source: @Lazlo99659/X

The encampment is currently spread out across three blocks on E. 12th Street between 17th and 14th Avenues. Despite previously unsuccessful attempts to clear it, it hasn’t worked and only goes to show that more needs to be done to solve the homelessness problem in Oakland and across the rest of the US.