Police in Florida announced Friday that they had arrested a suspect in the disappearance of 166 manhole covers, according to a report from NBC News.
The Polk County Sheriff’s detectives launched the investigation Wednesday after a local utility company reported that dozens of the 300-pound steel lids had gone missing over a period of two weeks, the article says. A “scrap alert” to all secondhand metal dealers sparked a tip leading to Christopher Fink, 40, who was arrested Thursday after he allegedly offloaded the covers with Gregco Recycling.
The scrap metal would be worth more than $22,000, NBC reports.
A press release from the sheriff’s office notes that the lack of manhole covers significantly increases the risk of harm to drivers and pedestrians, and the utility company has placed makeshift plywood covers over the spaces, marking each area as a hazard, the article notes.
Fink has been charged with 21 counts of grand theft, four counts of dealing in stolen property, four counts of false verification to secondhand metal dealers and 166 counts of culpable negligence exposure to harm.
The theft of manhole covers, generally for the cast iron scrap, is a global problem, NBC reports. In Birmingham, U.K., 900 covers disappeared in six months last year, as people dressed as city workers walked off with metal street signs and thieves stripped plumbing from empty houses.