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Metal Thieves Target Storm Drains In Union City

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A storm drain in Union City. (CBS)

A storm drain in Union City. (CBS)

UNION CITY (CBS 5) — Officials in Union City are resorting to chains and locks to stop a rash of recent metal thefts.

“People are coming out in the middle of the night, prying them up and are stealing them,” said Cmdr. Ben Horner of the Union City Police.

According to city officials, 15 metal storm drain grates have been snatched in the last three weeks. Police are concerned the missing grates may lead to someone falling into storm drains.

“To date, we haven’t had any accidents. But one of the reasons we want to put out the message was so that parents, cyclists and pedestrians would be on the lookout, so they don’t fall into one,” Horner said.

Most of the thefts are occurring in an industrial part of the city.

Metal thefts are not new to the Bay Area. Last year, 20 storm grates were stolen in one month in Vallejo. The thefts cost the cash-strapped city $350 to replace each grate.

In Union City, each incident has tied up public works crews. “So they have to shut down what they are doing, pull away to come out here, find out what size the grate is, go get the replacement, put it back in,” said Ray Fitch of city’s public works department. “So it’s a significant amount of time.”

With the grates weighing 100 pounds each, the thieves are doing some heavy lifting for little payoff. Lance Finkel of Lakeside recycling said the metal is only worth $10-20. He has only seen a few people trying to pass the stolen metal.

“Most of the people know that we don’t take that stuff, so they know not to come to us,” Finkel said.

Horner said, “The DA’s office is so sick and tired of these crimes that they take it very seriously and they hammer them when they catch them.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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