“And how would you like to drive your car into an open manhole?” he asked. Under some circumstances, that could wreck the vehicle totally, he said.
The thefts of metal had seemed to subside recently, Bonaiuto said. “We had a run about a year ago; it was happening all over.”
The thieves are suspected to be, in many cases, drug users looking for quick money.
“We would hope that the scrap yards would show more diligence,” Bonaiuto said. “It seems to me if you see a manhole cover that says City of Peabody, that would give you pause. We would hope you would return it immediately.”
Large scrap dealers are more likely to reject such goods as being more trouble than they are worth, Prosniewski said.
“The problem is they bring them to mom-and-pop dealers in Chelsea and Everett,” he said. Little record-keeping is required in such cases.
Police put the value of the SESD manhole cover at $536. But Prosniewski believes that for all the trouble involved in such thefts, the metal is sold for about a tenth of its value.
Chayet’s interest in the problem stems from two separate incidents in which gutters were stolen from his Salem home. In both instances, the culprits were captured, but what resulted was repeated frustration as he followed the cases through the courts. He came to believe that record-keeping would help prevent such crimes, and he promoted a bill with the help of Salem state Rep. John Keenan.
“I was told it was on track and was going to pass for sure,” Chayet said, adding that he was “extremely disappointed” when it died.
He can’t explain why it failed and has no knowledge that scrap dealers lobbied against it. Keenan could not be reached yesterday for comment.