Fresno's top wire thieves are getting a high profile, following a similar effort launched by police to target the city's leading car bandits.
The campaign is being launched amid an epidemic of wire thefts, leaving streets dark and causing heavy damage to the city's infrastructure.
As in the case of repeat auto thieves, it often is difficult to keep those arrested for property crimes in jail because of Fresno County Jail's limited capacity.
Non-violent offenders often are released from the jail because of a federal court order that limits the number of prisoners who can be held there.
The men identified by the police as leading wire thieves are Eric Louis Jackson, 29; Juan Gama, 28; and Allen Lee Suther, 40.
Wire thieves are increasingly going after street lights, even though city workers are trying to make such thefts more difficult by encasing fuse boxes in concrete and other material to make the wire tougher to reach.
In addition, thieves have been taking metal grates off streets and also going after wire at unoccupied homes.
Sgt. Mark Hudson, who heads a team that goes after the wire crooks, said many of the thieves are selling the metal at area recycling facilities to fuel their drug habits.
People addicted to methamphetamine often are awake through the night, he said, giving them ample opportunity to commit their crimes under the cover of darkness.
"In the daytime, they only stay up to go to the recycling center," Hudson said.
Recycling facility operators say they have no idea where the material they buy comes from if it does not have identification markings.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (559) 441-6339.