A surge in the value of copper, iron, and other metals has fueled a wave of thefts from sidewalks, roadways, and rail yards in the last few months, says the New York Times. On Wednesday alone, New York police arrested three men for stealing hunks of cast iron — grates made to protect tree roots and manhole covers weighing as much as 300 pounds.
The arrests followed reports of the disappearance of dozens of the grates and covers across the city and came on top of a spree of thefts of copper wire from utility cables. “It’s about money,” said Kevin Rafferty, president of Dublin Scrap Metal in Newark. “The economy’s tough, and people are looking to sell whatever they can find to sell.” Rafferty said his company would not buy manhole covers or pieces of train rail that people showed up with. He said stealing a manhole cover from a city street is a true sign of desperation. Iron is worth only about 15 cents a pound, compared with about $3 a pound for copper.