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Syracuse:steel Grating thefts

Release:2011-09-20   Edit:Admin   From:Rising steel grating

Syracuse, NY -- A sewer steel grate in the city of Syracuse weighs 250 pounds and can be extremely difficult to dislodge, depending on how long it’s been in place.
Since July, somebody has stolen 68 of them.
City police Sgt. Tom Connellan confirmed Saturday that police are looking for whoever has been stealing the galvanized steel sewer grates, presumably to sell as scrap metal. So far, the police have made no arrests.
“They’re metal, and anything metal is worth money,” Connellan said. “It’s a problem.”

Several Central New York scrap dealers said they pay as much as 13 cents a pound for steel, making each stolen grate worth $30 to $33 at a scrap yard.
The city pays $226 each to buy new grates, said Tom Simone, first deputy commissioner of public works. That means the thefts have cost taxpayers more than $15,000 so far.
Each time a grate goes missing, it leaves a hole on the side of the road roughly 3 feet long and 2 feet wide — a dangerous public hazard. The holes are typically 3 to 4 feet deep, enough to cause serious injury to a pedestrian or damage to a car, Simone said.

Public works employees rush to mark the holes with barricades as soon as they are detected, and usually replace the stolen grates with new ones within hours, Simone said.
“We’re just lucky no one was injured, or any vehicle damaged,” he said. “It’s an extreme hazard.”
Thanks to high scrap metal prices and a dour economy, sewer grates and manhole covers are disappearing from city streets all across the country, according to media reports. Thefts have occurred recently in Reading, Pa., Flint, Mich. and Springfield, Ill., to name a few.
Syracuse officials typically buy sewer grates once a year, keeping a surplus of 100 to 150 on hand to replace older grates as needed when crews work on sewers and catch basins, Simone said. Because of the thefts, the inventory is down to about 60 grates, and DPW officials are preparing to order more, he said.
The thefts began in July. At first, one or two grates would disappear at a time, Simone said. But the thieves have increased the pace. One day last week, 10 grates were stolen.
Most of the thefts have occurred on the north and west sides of the city, Simone said.
In at least some cases, the thieves targeted sewer grates that had recently been removed to clean out the catch basins below, Simone said. Grates that have been removed and replaced are much easier to lift out than those that have accumulated years of grit and debris around the edges, Simone said.
DPW crews usually lift the grates out with a truck, he said.
“After we pull it out to clean (the basin), a couple of strong men can just pull it out by hand,” he said.
Syracuse police Officer Containa Black, who investigated the theft of several grates Thursday from Turtle Street on the North Side, reported that witnesses had seen two suspicious men in the area who wore baseball caps with the brims backward. The men left in a purple or plum-colored Chevrolet Malibu.
Connellan said police have checked with local scrap dealers but have not found any of the missing grates.
“I don’t believe any have been turned in at local scrap yards,” he said.
The city’s sewer grates are not stamped with lettering, but they are uniquely configured and must be special-ordered, Simone said. That would make them easy for city officials to identify if they turned up at a scrap yard, he said.
The department’s 415 employees have been alerted to keep an eye out for thefts and missing grates, he said.