On Thursday night, the Lodi Electric Utility and city of Lodi staffers told a small number of Eastside residents that they are working on a solution to the darkened globe lights in their neighborhood.
Jay Marchesseault, the city operations and engineering manager, said the city hopes to find a way to reinforce the metal plates on the base of the lights so that vandals have no way of breaking into them and cutting the wires.
Marchesseault said the city has had a problem with vandals disabling the lights since 2012, but in the last couple of months, the situation has worsened.
Several of the city’s historic globe street lights in the area south of Locust Street, north of Vine Street, east of the railroad tracks and west of Cherokee Lane have been damaged.
“(The vandals) pry off the tin access panel and cut the wires next to the conduit. We have nothing to splice when we have to fix them,” Marchesseault said. “We’ve had cases where we fix them, and two days later the wires are cut again.”
Lodi Electric Utility workers have been replacing the damaged lights or installing new ones over the last several weeks to solve the problem.
To combat the vandalism, Lodi Electric crews have replaced the access panel plates and wrapped a stronger metal belt around the panels and pole bases. Marchesseault said the vandals have used hammers to knock the belts away from the plate.
Workers have also mounted Cobrahead light fixtures on the taller power poles around the neighborhoods.
Vandals wishing to disable those lights would either have to climb up the poles or shoot the fixtures. In some instances, vandals have actually shot at the fixture arms to disable the lights.
Residents Clifford Weaver and Meliisa Moss said the y believe the culprits are people from the neighborhood. However, they said many neighbors are afraid to call police for fear of retaliation.
They said since the city began installing the large Cobrahead lights, the problems have seemed to disappear from some areas in the neighborhood. However, they didn’t want the overhead lights to be permanent.
“(The globed lights) give the neighborhood character,” Weaver said. “That’s one of the reasons people stay on this side of town. That’s why I do.”
Lodi Electric Utility Director Liz Kirkley said the city is working with vendors to come up with access panels that will sit flush to the concrete bases once installed, and have tamper-proof locks.
“One of the things we’re working on is to find a cover even (Lodi Electric) can’t penetrate,” she said. “If we can do one, we’ll install them on one block and slowly de-energize the Cobraheads to see if this works.”
Kirkley said the Cobraheads will remain in place for the time being, in case the new tamper-proof covers don’t work.
Moss and Weaver also suggested installing security cameras in problem areas as a way to deter culprits.
Kirkley said installing cameras is a possibility, but said that the video is often either too grainy to identify a perpetrator, or vandals wear dark hats and hoods to cover their faces.
“This is happening in front of people’s homes,” Moss said. “There has to be someone who has seen something.”
Staff will present feedback received from residents to the Lodi City Council at Tuesday’s shirtsleeve session.
The shirtsleeve session begins at 7 a.m. at Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.