Ongoing thefts by metal thieves not only cost Vancouver, B.C. taxpayers money but the missing covers put people and pets at risk of serious injury.
According to the Vancouver Police Department, 124 storm drain covers have been stolen throughout the city since June. While the majority of these thefts occurred during the summer, 19 covers have been stolen so far this month.
Storm drains are found on streets and roads near curbs as well as in alleys. While some of the drains are only one or two feet deep, some can have a depth of five or six feet.
Bruce Todd, Superintendent of Sewer Operations for the city of Vancouver said, "Missing covers pose a significant public safety risk. Pets, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists could all be seriously harmed by an open catch basin. In the dark, people may not recognize that a catch basin is missing or the open hole may be covered with leaves or debris making it harder to distinguish the hole from solid ground."
Each cover costs the city $176 to buy and according to scrap metal dealers, thieves can expect to receive only about $14 for each metal cover.
The Vancouver Sun reports a new provincial law took effect in July regulating scrap metal buyers and companies that fail to comply with the regulations can face fines of up to $100,000. Scrap metal dealers are required to record information from buyers from government issued identification cards and to record exactly what items they purchase.
To date, none of Vancouver's scrap metal companies have been found to have purchased the stolen covers. Police believe they are being sold outside the city.
CBC reports that although the thefts are taking place throughout the city, most of them are taking place in Vancouver's west end.
To date, the thefts have cost the city $19,000 and the city tries to replace the stolen covers as quickly as possible. Police request anyone who finds an uncovered storm drain to call the city at 311. And anyone who witnesses any suspicious activity is asked to call 911.