Residents are encouraged to watch their step as are investigating a recent string of manhole cover and catch basin thefts that presents public safety and cost concerns.
“We’d like to put an end to this right away,” said Assistant Public Works Superintendent Jamie Magaldi. “It’s not something you see until you’re right on top of it. You’ve basically got a two foot by two foot hole in the street. A child could fall into that no problem, and an adult could too. Not to mention, if you hit that with your car, you’re going to have much more than just a damaged tire.”
According to Wilmington Police Lieutenant Brian Pupa, close to 10 of the metal covers have been stolen in the last week. Pupa said Andover Police are investigating similar thefts of about 30 covers, and other towns in the area are facing issues as well.
The covers cost about $200 to replace. Police said that the parties responsible are likely using a hook so they are able to lift them from the street, load them into their waiting vehicle, and leave the scene in less than a minute.
“It’s definitely a safety hazard,” said Pupa. “Because it happens so fast, we really rely on the eyes and ears of the community. We definitely have our patrolmen who are cognizant of this. They’re in neighborhoods off the beaten path in the off chance of catching someone in the act of doing this.”
Pupa said the thefts have occurred mostly on side streets and in small neighborhoods rather than main streets. Most have occurred in North Wilmington, while one was taken from a company on Research Drive.
According to Pupa, the parties involved are likely bringing the covers to Everett where they are scrapped in exchange for money.
Magaldi and Pupa both encourage residents to report any suspicious vehicles removing covers from the ground. The only people who are authorized to removed covers would be driving vehicles marked with the town logo, according to Magaldi.
“At $200 each to replace the covers, it can add up quickly,” said Magaldi. “But I think the biggest concern is the ignorance of these people to be stealing them. It truly does create a major public safety concern.”