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Manhole covers stolen in Long Beach

May 6, 2008 6:05:25 PM PDT
There's been a rash of thefts of manhole covers in the city of Long Beach. Some 55 have been stolen in the past few months -- five of which were just discovered missing on Tuesday. The problem is that when left uncovered, the holes are a danger to people and cars.Take a drive and you're hardly ever notice them -- until they're gone. Long Beach is suddenly short on manhole covers.

In the last few months, over 50 have been stolen, and 22 in the last 10 days. Why would someone want to steal manhole covers?

It seems this steal is a real deal when melted down at local scrap yards.

"These thieves are paid $10 to $15, which is substantially below the market price for cast iron," said Ryan Alsop from the Long Beach Water Department.

"For a manhole? And they're taking these things and they're only getting $10? That's not worth it," said San Pedro resident Derrick Dillard.

"For us, it's pushing $500 in replacement costs," said Alsop.

All these stolen manhole covers tend to add up. With more than 50 gone, that's more than $25,000. But city officials say it's not the money that really worries them -- it's the safety issue.

"These things are taken out, it leaves a 30 inch hole where the drop is six-to-eight feet," said Alsop. "People going to work, or taking the trash out, or kids on the way to school, or somebody walking the dog, unsuspecting could fall in."

So far, the city of Long Beach has only had a couple of complaints filed for car damage. The question now is how the city can keep a lid on its manhole losses?

"Stake out a manhole," said Long Beach resident Clayton Turner. "I don't know."

"Put some cameras," said Long Beach resident Tracy Cortez. "That way you can catch people in the act."

To keep more money from going down the drain, Alsop says the city is looking into different locking devices. One company in China sells what they call "burglarproof" manhole covers that are made of materials that can't be recycled. It's one option that could solve a "hole" lot of problems.

 

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