A rash of sewer grate thefts around northern Kentucky has police worried about safety as scavengers seek scrap metal to sell.
Thieves stole at least 26 sewer grates this month from streets in Newport, Covington, Fort Thomas, Wilder, Southgate, Bellevue and Dayton.
“The story is the sewer grates, but it’s much broader than that – it’s anything you can scrap and sell,” Fort Thomas police Detective Brad Adams said.
The grates are typically made of cast iron and can weigh up to 180 pounds. It costs at least $120 to replace and reinstall each stolen grate, although they fetch only between $10 and $30 apiece at scrap yards.
When it comes to scrap metal, thieves go beyond sewer grates. Police say they’re also known to break into vacant houses and steal copper piping, cut catalytic converters from vehicles, steal aluminum lampposts from the side of highways – and take abandoned vehicles from the side of interstates.
The items are generally taken to scrap metal yards and exchanged for cash. Scrap metal yards are generally cooperative with police, but police say the thefts are tough to prevent.
“You’ve just got to deal with them on a case-by-case basis, unfortunately,” Adams said. “And once you put one (thief) in jail, there’s another one waiting to take his place.”
Cities are trying to put a stop to the thefts by regulating the sale of items at scrap yards. Covington and Newport passed ordinances last year that require the yards to photocopy the IDs of people who sell scrap metal there.
Newport’s scrap metal yards also scan the bar codes on drivers’ licenses to prevent fraud. Covington requires its yards to hold scrap metal for 30 days so stolen items can be reclaimed.
“Our scrap yards won’t touch that stuff with a 10-foot pole,” said Newport Police Chief Robbie Hall.
The problem is scrap yards in other places aren’t so picky, Hall said. Someone trying to peddle stolen crap metal will leave a yard asking for identification and find another that doesn’t have the requirement, he added.
Hall found out first hand the hazard posed by a missing sewer grate when he nearly wrecked his car on April 16 after hitting a hole where a grate once stood.
Sanitation spokeswoman Peggy Casey said storm sewers without grates are dangerous.
“Someone could easily fall into one of those,” she said. “Those storm sewers are deep. If someone doesn’t realize the hole is there, that can be pretty dangerous.”
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer,
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