Oakland Thwarts Copper Thieves With Novel Stop Sign Technology

The new stop sign on the traffic light cantilever in Oakland

Screenshot: KPIX

City officials in Oakland, California decided to replace a traffic light at an intersection with stop signs last week. This decision wasn’t part of some urbanist initiative to calm traffic; the city couldn’t keep the light functional.

Local business owners claim copper is being repeatedly stripped from the signal’s electrical boxes. After several instances of the light going dark, municipal workers pulled down the physical light from the cantilever and put the ubiquitous red octagonal sign in its place.

Two auto shop owners shared their views about the unusual state of the East 12th Street and 16th Avenue intersection. Bruce Vuoing, owner of Quality Tech Automotive, told KRON:

“The stoplight never worked. It probably worked about maybe 24-48 hours, then copper got stolen and took out the electricity. I guess they got tired of fixing it.”

Vuoing also noting that drivers have been more cautious while driving through the intersection now. Tam Le, owner of Le’s Auto Body & Engine Repair, told KPIX:

“It’s just telling us that the city is giving up on us. The city did try to fix the traffic light at least a few times. But once they fixed it, normally within a week or so, it will go out again. If you really want to fix the stop sign, I think you really have to clean up this homeless encampment.”

Le brings up a valid concern, but the encampment seems to be the symptom of the same problem. Vuoling mentioned an armed robbery at his shop, and 911 left his employees on hold for nearly eight minutes. Oakland is headed towards a $177 million deficit, with the city council likely to cut much-needed government services to balance the budget. If businesses can’t safely operate, then they can’t generate tax revenue and worsen the deficit. The municipal government could just start spiraling toward defaulting on its debt.

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