New York City is trying to crack down on one of its stranger crimes: the theft of thousands of manhole covers.
At a hearing on Friday to study ways to curtail the thievery, officials proposed, among other measures, a new law that would make stealing a manhole cover punishable by a minimum fine of $2,500 with up to 30 days in jail. The current fine is $1,000.
Since 2009, from 1,300 to 1,600 covers have gone missing each year, James Roberts, deputy commissioner of the bureau of water and sewer operations, said at the hearing. More than 370 have disappeared so far this year.
Many are stolen, officials believe, to be resold as scrap metal, though some are lost to pranks or accidental damage. The covers, most of which are made of iron and weigh up to 300 pounds (136 kg), cost the city about $100 each to replace.
Uncovered manholes create a serious hazard for pedestrians and motorists.
(Reporting By Joseph O'Leary; Editing by Eric Walsh)