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Hundreds of drain covers have been ripped out of a West Midlands town by thieves thought to be attempting to sell them for scrap metal.
Police are hunting for crooks after this year saw 342 cast iron gully covers taken across Walsall – leaving gaping holes in the roads.
It comes amid a cost of living crisis and as the price of metal soars.
A total of 28 coverings – which protect the public sewer system – were taken last Wednesday, July 20, alone.
Scrap metal dealers have been warned that they will be punished for accepting the covers after Walsall Council revealed that taxpayers’ will be forced to pay £110,800 to replace the items that have gone missing this year.
Its leader, Councillor Mike Bird, explained: ‘That’s a significant amount of public money that we’d rather spend on our looked after children and caring for our most vulnerable residents, rather than fixing things after criminals have left our highways in a dangerous condition.
‘If residents see this criminal activity in progress, I would ask them to consider their own safety and not attempt to intervene, but report any information they have to West Midlands Police.
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‘Any footage from doorbell cameras is particularly welcomed. If we can find them and recover costs from them, we will.’
Mr Bird continued: ‘We will also come down heavily on scrap dealers who allow these to be ‘weighed in’, as a drain cover’s purpose is patently obvious.
‘We have around 37,825 gully covers across the borough, of varying ages, designs and sizes.
‘This means there isn’t a handy stockpile of covers in the yard which can be quickly fitted, so our contractor Tarmac has to “plate” the missing covers while replacements are organised to ensure the safety of highway users.’
But he said that the new covers will be much harder for criminals to take – though they will be more expensive.
‘I can understand people may think it’s just a 10 minute job, but it isn’t and certainly not if we want to future-proof’, he added.
‘When we walk, drive or cycle, we only see the surface, but there’s a lot of engineering underground.’
Motorists are being warned to drive carefully on the roads following the raids.
West Midlands Police have been contacted for comment.
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