, Salem, MA

Local News

July 3, 2013

Manhole-cover thefts inspire renewed legal effort

Iron, brass, copper and steel — if not nailed down (and sometimes even when they are), it’s best not leave these materials out in the open.

Three manhole covers were reported missing on Monday, apparently stolen for their value as scrap metal, and it’s not the first time this has happened. The loss has sparked fears of a renewed increase in such thefts.

It is enough to inspire Salem lawyer and media commentator Neil Chayet to renew his efforts to pass legislation designed to make it harder for thieves to steal metal, including manhole covers, gutters, ladders and even public monuments.

“We ought to be able to do something on this,” Chayet said, noting that a recent attempt to pass a law policing scrap-metal sales died unexpectedly in the Legislature at the close of last year’s session.

Monday’s thefts of manhole covers occurred in Beverly, where a National Grid cover was lifted at Hale Street and Hale Park Avenue; in Salem, where a manhole cover with the letters SESD (South Essex Sewerage District) was taken from behind the Salem Oil and Grease on Grove Street; and in Peabody, where one was stolen on Walnut Street.

A witness reported seeing the Peabody manhole cover in a gray Infiniti, its trunk held shut with bungee cords. The cover must have fallen out, as it was found later on Caller Street and returned to its place by the DPW, according to Peabody police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto. The Peabody thief was described as a white male in his 30s, 5 feet 7 to 5 feet 8, with brown hair and a medium to heavy build.

When manhole covers go missing, there’s more at stake than lost income.

“It’s dangerous,” said Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski, noting that an unwary pedestrian could stumble into the hole.

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