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A manhole cover that could cost several hundred dollars may bring only $20 as sc

Metal thefts hit city

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Several manhole covers and catch drain basin grates have been stolen from streets in the Brainerd Industrial Park in what police believe is a new target for scrap metal thieves.

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Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said a crime alert was issued to other law enforcement agencies in the state after the thefts were reported this past weekend and St. Cloud had similar incidents but it wasn’t known if those cases were connected to Brainerd’s.

What police do believe is that the scrap is being taken outside the area for sale, Bestul said.

“Who does this? This is the first I have ever heard of something like this,” Bestul said. “It doesn’t seem to me that they would be getting that much money for even 100 pounds of this.”

City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said five manhole covers and basin grates were noticed missing Friday and seven more were taken this past weekend. The city had a few spares on hand to replace some of the stolen covers, Hulsether said, but the city will have to order more to replace the rest. The manhole covers and basin grates cost several hundred dollars a piece.

“It’s going to add up if this continues,” Hulsether said.

The coverings weigh about 125 pounds a piece, Hulsether said, and as scrap they would only be worth $20-$25 a piece. Hulsether said he hoped someone trying to sell manhole covers and basin grates as scrap would raise an alarm with recycling companies.

Metal thefts in the city, and across the country, have been on the rise the past few years as the value of metal increases. However, most metal thefts have involved copper or brass, Bestul noted.

While the cost of replacing the manhole covers and basin grates is a concern, more alarming for city officials is the potential for injury or vehicle damage possible because of the missing covers.

“Someone could get seriously injured by hitting an open catch basin or manhole,” Hulsether said. So far there have been no reports of missing covers in residential areas, Bestul said.

Anyone with information about the thefts or witnessing suspicious activity around manhole covers or storm sewer catch basin grates is asked to call the Brainerd Police Department at (829-2805).

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5857.

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