Heavy metal criminals
Crime increases during times of economic stress, and sometimes the criminals can take unusual steps. In the Denver metro area, the Great Recession has scrap-metal thieves trafficking in a new commodity: storm grates.
Denver and Aurora, Colo., have seen 37 of the grates disappear in just the past two weeks, according to the Denver Post. “This is a new experience for us,” Dan Mikesell, operations manager for Aurora Water, told the Post. “Maybe we had one missing here and there before, but never in bulk.” Christine Downs, a spokesperson for Denver Public Works, said the thefts are a sign of desperation on the part of the thieves. “It’s a big risk for a small reward, and they’re stealing from the city,” Downs said.
At the current price of an estimated 8 cents a pound for the cast iron, city officials estimate thieves may get $8 to $12 per 155-pound grate. It costs the city about $200 to replace each one. Denver already has spent about $3,000 on 15 replacement grates. Of the 22 stolen in Aurora, all but one have been replaced, but the city is now out of stock and has to wait for an order to come in. “Our biggest concern is that this is a safety issue,” Mikesell said. “People walking down the street at night might not see it, so we’re securing them and trying to get them replaced as soon as possible.” No injuries or accidents have been reported so far.