Sewer grate thefts cause for concern in Racine

CREATED Jan. 9, 2013

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RACINE - Police need the public's help to curtail bizarre metal thefts in the city.

Criminals are snatching up sewer grates.  They're heavy,  cast iron, and missing from city streets.

Dubbed 'catch basin covers,' the grates let water in and keep waste out. 

At least they did-before criminals pulled them out of the ground.

Racine police maintain someone nabbed more than 60 of these covers in the last month and a half. Seven reportedly vanished over the weekend.

"It would take a matter of seconds for someone to come up, park their vehicle, remove the cover, throw it in the back and drive away," explained RPD's Sergeant Martin Pavilonis.

On the surface, these thefts may not seem like that big of a deal, but the basins themselves are deep.  If they're left uncovered-someone could get hurt.

"That's something you usually don't look for or expecting on a bike or walking," Pavilonis said.

Public works crews have makeshift covers on standby.   Finding a permanent fix is a challenge.

"Trying to find the right sizes for 'em because they make different sizes. We don't carry all of the sizes. Some of them are obsolete," explained Paul Reinhold of Racine's Department of Public Works.

With the thefts still in full swing, homeowners are hoping police catch the criminals before someone gets injured.

"It'd be scary for a kid to go down there," said Dean Berget of Racine.

"Especially if they whack their head or their chin when they go in. How could they scream for help?"

So far, no covers have turned up.  Thankfully, no one has been hurt.  If you can help crack the case, call Racine Police.