Thieves target manhole covers

Updated: 12/16/2010 9:06 am | Published: 12/08/2010 6:30 pm

Written by Marina Sabber

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A new crime on the streets of the Salt Lake Valley – or, more precisely in the streets – has law enforcers, home owners and metal dealers on alert. Criminals have found a way to make money from stolen manhole covers and other metals objects most people normally don’t even notice. Cable, wiring, metal sheeting, anything that can be sold for melt-down and re-use is now a target of thieves.

For forty years, Ron Case has operated a construction company in the West Valley. He says criminals are rolling in to his business almost every week and rolling out with tools, equipment, supplies and even scraps. “They just come and jump the fence or cut the fence,” says Case. “They cut open their own gate and load up everything on trucks and trailers."

Case says not even the manhole covers in the street outside are safe. "In the middle of the day, they just take the bar and pop the manhole cover off and throw it on their trunk,” he says. “It’s kind of amazing that someone would risk someone’s life.”

Police are working not only to protect property but also the safety of people who use public streets. Taylorsville Sergeant Tracy Wyant says law enforcers have seen double-digit increases in metal thefts around the Salt Lake Valley.
"Most thieves are crimes of opportunity to support drug habits,” he says. “We’ve made a number of arrests of metal thieves.”

Denise Wilson recently reported a case to Taylorsville Police Department. She and her husband almost stepped into the exposed manhole in their street. They had to pay $286 dollars to replace it. "The hole was about four feet deep and it was filled with water,” she says. “A little child, three to five years old, could have hurt themselves.”

Reputable metal dealers and recyclers are helping police fight the crime by buying metal they suspect is stolen, then leading police to the thieves.

Dan Allen Floyd, vice president of one of Utah’s largest metal recycling companies, says "We will purchase the material as directed by whoever it was stolen from to aid in prosecuting the individual who stole the material."

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