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Metal rustlers target storm drains

Posted May 16, 2008

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— Throughout the state, thieves have been taking storm drain covers made of metals that can net them $30 to $80 in quick cash.

“People are stealing anything with precious metals and having them recycled,” said Capt. J.L. Gerrell of the Clayton Police Department.

The problem has been visible in Wake County, with drain covers missing from various cities. The covers cost anywhere from $200 to $500 to replace.

Scrap steel, copper and other metals are in high demand for thieves. Getting metal from storm drain covers means wrestling with disks that weigh about 100 pounds each.

Gerrell said 17 storm drain covers have been taken in Clayton since the beginning of this month.

In Garner, the parking lot of the White Oak Shopping Center has lost two storm drain covers, which were stolen near the center’s movie theater last week. To help save the remaining four drain covers, authorities welded them to the frames in which they sit. Thieves still managed to take the drains, however.

“It’s very dangerous. You are talking about opening a big hole in the parking lot of all things, where you have kids…in and out all day everyday,” said Sgt. Joe Binns of the Garner Police Department.

TT&E Iron and Metal in Garner recycles more than a million pounds of scrap metal a day.

“We’re a resource for all the police agencies and the sheriff’s departments,” said Ronnie Thompson of TT&E Iron and Metal.

Just hours before Thompson spoke with WRAL on Friday, he said, some storm drain covers were dropped off. He set them aside and soon got an alert about missing storm drain covers that were traced to Wake County.

“A lot of times, we’d red flag them. If it’s a suspect, we’d red flag their account so it pops up on the scale with their license. If we don’t have suspect names, we’ll be on the look-out for it,” Thompson said.

Local law enforcement officers said scrap metal companies are great resources in terms of tracking down suspected thieves.


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  • john60 May 19, 2008

    It's kind of difficult to justify possessing storm drain grates or manhole covers, unless you're a contractor with a license to work with those things. If you're a recycler, ask for the license and name of the company the person represents; no one else should be lugging those things in to get some recycling money.

  • sweetsea May 19, 2008

    Purchasers of this scrap metal know when it is stolen. If somebody walks in with a storm drain cover or new air condition coils, they obviously stole them. If you start charging the scrap metal dealers with receiving stolen goods and let them pay fines and spend time in jail, most of this mess will stop. Require them to see drivers license or valid ID of sellers and then record the time, date and type of metals offered for sale.

  • rc4nc May 19, 2008

    Those paying thieves for my air conditioner coil and water pipes are no different than those receiving stolen cars. I can see tighter controls in the future, on the salvage business.

  • chfdcpt May 16, 2008

    So how can they know that the parts are stolen?

  • Dr DatacIerk May 16, 2008

    If the scrap metal plants would stop accepting them, thieves would stop stealing them....