(Memphis) The Memphis City Department of Public Works is calling it a “major” problem: thieves stealing storm drain grates.
It’s costing tax-payers about $40,000 a year and it’s also becoming a safety concern.
When a drain cover is stolen it leaves a hole that is two feet by four feet and it would be easy for children, animals or even grown adults to fall in.
“It’s a waste and it`s a safety hazard and the people that do it, don`t care about anybody else," said Jim Carter, a Frayser resident.
Jim Carter certainly cares and so does the City.
Each time a thief steals one of the grates off our city streets it costs us $150.
One Frayser man says he saw a heavy weight heist with his own eyes.
“They just reached down and picked it up and slid it in the back of the van,” said Larry Turner.
Turner says he saw it from his home Monday morning.
A van pulled-up, two men got out and lifted two 250-pound grates off his street and hauled them away.
“Could you try to lift it up?” asked reporter Sabrina Hall.
“No ma'am. We are over 60 years old,” said Turner. “At our age, we don't pick up anything that looks that heavy.”
Public works told us it spends $40,000 a year replacing these stolen grates and the problem is getting worse, 60 to 70 grates are missing every month, 20 or more of them every week.
“These recyclers have to know, whether it's Mississippi or Arkansas, they have to know that these are stolen,” said Turner.
“You would think. You would think,” said Hall.
“Nobody has this much scrap iron sitting in their backyard,” said Carter.
The City of Memphis says it plans to add locks to its existing grates soon but hopes to eventually replace all the grates with high-density plastic ones that will be completely worthless to scrap metal dealers.
Public works says the thefts create a huge liability issue with the City because if children or people fall into the drains, the City could be held responsible.
That's why it works to replace all stolen grates within 24 hours.