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Hundreds of Midlands manhole covers stolen in months

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The true extent of the rising crime of manhole and drain cover thefts can be revealed today – as councils resort to replacing covers with non-metal ones in an attempt to thwart the thieves.

The true extent of the rising crime of manhole and drain cover thefts can be revealed today – as councils resort to replacing covers with non-metal ones in an attempt to thwart the thieves.

Figures show that hundreds have disappeared in the Midlands within months. Many councils are replacing them with non-metal ones to beat the raiders but highways chiefs say the "irresponsible" crime puts lives at risk. It can cost hundreds of pounds to replace a cover.

In Worcestershire, raiders have stolen 110 manhole covers in the past month, bringing the year's total to more than 500.

In Sandwell 300 covers have been taken since September, prompting bosses to look at ways to combat the trend. In Dudley, there have been 200 covers stolen so far this year, and in Walsall 120 covers have gone missing since April.

Council bosses in Wolverhampton said 69 covers had been stolen, and Staffordshire County Council has had 27 thefts since January.

The number of thefts in Worcestershire has prompted council chiefs to speak out against the crime. Cabinet member for transport, Councillor John Smith, said it had cost the county council £85,000 to replace the covers with hinged ones that are more difficult to remove.

He added: "This is a totally irresponsible crime, which is putting lives at risk. It is also costing the council thousands. If we are paying to replace manhole covers, that is cash we can't spend on improving our roads."

In Sandwell council chiefs are considering replacing the borough's 30,000 drain covers with plastic ones. The bill for replacing covers in Wolverhampton has been £16,500.

Head of Wolverhampton City Council's Street Scene Services, Steve Woodward said: "As soon as we are made aware of incidents like this, we put down a temporary cover to make it safe before replacing the grid at a later date."

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