By Alan Neuhauser
Special to DNAinfo.com New York
MANHATTAN — Thieves have waltzed off with more than 30 cast-iron manhole covers from thoroughfares in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens since March, Con Edison said Thursday, presumably selling the 320-pound discs for scrap, officials said.
"Stealing manhole covers is dangerous," said Milovan Blair, Con Edison Vice President for Brooklyn-Queens Electric Operations. "Anyone who steals these covers creates a serious hazard for pedestrians and motorists."
Witnesses have said individuals dressed in utility apparel, but without any Con Ed logos or other utility markings, were spotted prying open manhole covers using a carjack, then loading the covers onto pick-up trucks and speeding away, the utility said.
The most recent thefts occurred Wednesday in Brooklyn, but the exact location was not immediately available.
"The theft of manhole covers has definitely spiked up recently," Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury said. "Thirty is a very large number."
Not only can someone fall into an open manhole, Drury said, but the openings can also cause car accidents: "Hitting one at high speed would damage the front end of a car," Drury said, possibly causing chain-reaction rear-end collisions, as well.
Cast iron, sold for scrap on the open market, goes for about 11 cents a pound, according to New York and New Jersey scrapyards. That amounts to roughly $35 for a manhole cover.
Only the cast-iron covers have been stolen, Drury noted. Con Ed's newer composite manhole covers have been left untouched.
Anyone who spots suspicious individuals working near manholes, or removing the covers, is asked to call 911 immediately. Residents should also report any open manholes, even if they are barricaded, to Con Ed by calling 800-75-CONED (26633).