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OC suspect caught in cases of copper-wire theft

Clackamas County Sheriff's officers suspect that a man they arrested on Sept. 26 at approximately 1:27 a.m. after a report of someone cutting wires attached to streetlights along the bike path bordering Interstate 205 near Highway 212 is connected to an earlier case.

Someone who stole copper wiring, probably to sell for scrap, also cost taxpayers about $4,000 and screwed up traffic lights around Highway 224 and Interstate 205 in Clackamas this month.

A man was seen running into the wooded area bordering next to the bike path early Wednesday morning. Sheriff's deputies along with officers from the Gladstone Police Department surrounded the dense wooded area, and a K-9 officer was brought in from the Portland Police Bureau.

A subsequent search of the wooded area led deputies to Nicholas Richmond, 24, of Oregon City, found buried deep in blackberry bushes. Deputies had to chop through the blackberry bushes in order to reach Richmond, who continued to hide in the bushes until bitten by the the officer's dog.

Richmond's had only minor scratching, medical personnel determined, so he was booked the Clackamas County Jail on charges of criminal mischief, eluding a police officer, theft and driving while suspended.

According to Oregon Department of Transportation, the value of the wire Richmond is accused of trying to steal was only $30 to $40. The cost to repair the damage will be over $600. Any damage to a public transportation system, immediately makes the crime a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $125,000 in fines.

Previously, Oregon State Police were investigating damage and theft of ODOT property. In one case a signal control box was damaged, and in a second case, police say, copper wiring for a bike path’s overhead lights was stolen. Luckily, said OSP Lt. Gregg Hastings, no traffic crashes occurred due to the signals being out.

OSP received the report of problem with traffic signals in the area on Sept. 19, at 8:30 a.m., and found it was caused after someone broke into a locked control box. The suspect or suspects took relay switches affecting stoplights and copper wiring running underground between four light poles along the Interstate 205 bike path near Clackamas. Someone apparently cut the wire at the base of the poles and pulled a total of nine 180-foot lengths of copper wire.

“It used to be a fairly common occurrence a few years ago when there was a lot of construction activity, but this is the first one that I’ve heard about in awhile,” Hastings said.

OSP and ODOT ask anyone with information regarding these thefts to contact Trooper Travis Neubauer at 503-731-3020, ext. 471. Anyone seeing similar suspicious activity or tampering with ODOT property should call 911 or OSP at 800-452-7888.

A group of food carts were recently targeted in downtown Portland as well. In 1996, a Pacific Northwest-based group called the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program started up to educate people about how thieves operate.