- Last Updated: 12:12 PM, May 4, 2012
- Posted: 2:12 AM, May 4, 2012
Cops have uncovered the city’s latest crime wave.
Roving gangs of thieves are stealing manhole covers from the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx — prying up the 320-pound, cast-iron lids and hauling them off to scrap yards.
The payoff: a lousy $75.
More than 30 of the Con Ed covers have vanished since early March, with thieves “dressed in utility apparel” lifting them with car jacks and loading them onto pickup trucks.
Sources said they sell the metal to shady scrap yards. At current prices — which are near historic highs — crooks can collect $50 to $75 apiece.
The covers measure up to 32 inches across and cost Con Ed about $200 to replace, said utility spokesman Allan Drury.
Stealing them creates a hazard to motorists and pedestrians. Con Ed says it tries to replace covers right away, although sometimes, the holes are temporarily covered with metal plates.
“We have them in stock. When we get a report of a missing cover, we replace it,” Drury said.
Manhole-cover thefts aren’t unusual — but the utility says it’s odd to have 30 such thefts over a span of a few weeks.
Also, the thieves seem to be targeting Con Ed. The city’s other major manhole owner — the Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for water mains and sewerage — says it hasn’t noticed an uptick in thefts.
Scrap-metal prices peaked in the summer of 2008, but then plunged in the wake of the financial crisis, said Bryan Berry of the Web site MetalPrices.com.
Since then, prices have been rising steadily, Berry said.
“Manhole covers will get you some money now,” said Berry. Scrap yards in Ohio recently raised their prices for such metal by $10 a ton — but did not draw any new sellers, he said.
Berry suspects the Con Ed covers or the metal from them are being shipped overseas, probably to Turkey.
Cops said that 26 of the Con Ed covers were stolen in Brooklyn and Queens between April 20 and May 2.
A surveillance camera picked up an April 22 theft on Starr Avenue in Queens. The thief drove a pickup truck with an orange “men at work” sign on its bed.
In an unrelated case, two Massachusetts men were arrested March 19 in the theft of eight DEP manhole covers in The Bronx.
* Con Ed’s cast-iron manhole covers weigh up to 320 pounds each.
* Worth up to $75 each to thieves — but cost Con Ed $200 to replace.
* More than 30 stolen since early March in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx.