Metal theft is a major, worldwide problem. Since the early 2000’s the demand for scrap metal has increased year on year, particularly in China. The price of scrap metal has been driven up and this in turn has been a ‘green light’ to metal thieves. What is most surprising, however, is the sheer variety of metal artefacts that are stolen.
We have already published a page on the subject of church roof security. The theft of lead and copper from church roofs has been a problem for some years. It has left a trail of damaged, historic architecture and repairs costs that most parishes cannot afford. So, in many instances, churches have had to choose cheaper roofing materials for the repairs.
One of the most staggering examples of this kind of lead theft was in October 2018 in Bedford England. Thieves stole an entire lead roof from a 14th century, Grade I listed church. The metal stolen had a weight of approx 20 tonnes!
Worldwide Theft Of Manhole Covers
The theft of manhole covers was something that we had heard of before, but more just in passing via local news. However, it seems that the world is facing a global problem with far-reaching consequences.
Reports of manhole covers being stolen on a large scale first began to emerge in 2004.
In that year:
- almost 1/4 million manhole and drain covers were stolen in Beijing, China.
- 10,000+ manhole covers went missing in Kolkata, India in just an eight week period.
Although the city replaced them with concrete covers, even those were stolen – for the metal rebar inside!
- 500 manhole covers were stolen in a matter of days in Fife, Scotland.
See the BBC news Great Drain Robbery story.
Alongside them are almost as many storm grates and street drain covers.
Here are just a few of the more recent stories which have been in the headlines:
Cincinatti, USA – in August 2018, the city saw many manhole covers and storm grates stolen. Read the full story.
Kenville, South Africa – in January 2019, there was a spate of manhole cover thefts. A local police spokesperson said they believed the covers were clearly stolen to be sold to scrap metal dealers. Read more here.
Nottingham, England – in April 2019, more than 35 drain covers were stolen in 24 hours. Local news story is here.
The ‘Smart’ Manhole Cover
So, what is the security solution to this type of theft? With literally, millions upon millions of manhole covers in use around the world, this is an exceptional security problem.
In the Chinese city of Hangzhou, they may have found a solution. They have taken a novel approach to their city’s disappearing manhole covers. Before they install a new manhole cover, they plant a GPS tracking chip inside it! Not only that, but their covers are made from a non-standard material – ductile iron. This has a very low scrap metal value. The hope is that would-be thieves will just not think it worth their while to steal them. Now there’s a manhole cover story to make you smile 🙂