Manhole cover theft sending council cash down the drain 15.02.11
Road users are being put at risk by gangs of thieves stealing manhole covers, Sutton Council warned today.
More than 40 manhole covers and gully cover frames have been stolen this week in the borough, exposing drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians to the danger of a serious accident.
Cllr Simon Wales, Executive Member for Communities, transport and Voluntary Sector, said: "This is a totally irresponsible crime, which is putting the lives of road users and pedestrians in jeopardy
"It is also costing councils thousands of pounds at a time when cash is desperately short. If we are paying out to replace manhole covers and gully covers, that is cash we can't spend on improving our roads."
A manhole cover weighs up to 80kg (176lb). The council is replacing the stolen covers with ones made from recycled plastic. They have no scrap value but cost more than £50 for each one.
It follows a spate of thefts in areas outside London. Surrey County Council is one of the worst affected, with more than 500 covers stolen last year. In Essex almost 100 covers have been taken. Essex Police said that thieves wearing high visibility clothing turned up in vans and posed as roadside maintenance workers.
A spokesman for Sutton police said: "We are asking members of the public to be vigilant and to tell us if they see anyone lifting a manhole cover onto a flatbed truck or into a van.
"We are also contacting scrap metal merchants to make them aware of the problem and to call us with any information that could help with our enquiries."