Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fanfare for a Manhole

(To continue on a theme ... )

In recent years, local thieves have taken metal from wiring in abandoned buildings, air conditioners, grave sites (bronze urns), and catalytic converters to sell for scrap. Now, in Philadelphia and other places, you can add manhole covers to the list.

From Newsweek: "Three weeks ago 12-year-old Shamira Fingers from South Philadelphia was walking down a city street near her home when she suddenly fell into an open sewer hole."

The reason? Someone stole the manhole cover for scrap metal. Philadelphia has lost 600 in the last year, Chicago lost 200 in one month, 75 were taken from Greensboro, North Carolina, and the list goes on and on.

The story says thieves get about $10 to $20 a cover, and they cost municipalities about $500 to replace. In addition to the economic repercussions, there's also a safety issue, so Philadelphia has started locking down the manhole covers.

Closer to home, the Memphis City Council enacted an ordinance last December that requires scrap metal dealers to hold metal items for 10 days. Scrap metal dealers said they didn't know if scrap metal was obtained legally — the council's thought was that a 10-day waiting period would give police time to find metal that has been reported stolen. A state measure also requires metal sellers to provide a thumbprint and a legal ID.

But, really, in these type of cases, if someone is selling a manhole cover that says "MLGW" on it, it's probably a good bet it's not theirs.