Thieves target highway drain grates for quick cash

11:45 PM, May 17, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- It's a story that has you saying "you're kidding me?"
But we're not.

The Georgia's Department of Transportation says in the last 5 years more than $500,000 worth of highway grates have been stolen.

In the last 2 months, more than 600 grates have been taken. Each one weighs from 200 to 300 pounds.

It's a costly epidemic on the interstates across Georgia.

The worst part about it, says the DOT, is if you car breaks down and you are walking along the highway and one of the grates is missing, you could fall as much as 10 feet.

The grates are designed to drain heavy rain and prevent trash from blocking the pipes, but when they disappear, road flooding and pedestrian safety become serious issues.

"It's not just a problem in the Metro area. We see it on Highway 400, on the Interstates 75 and 85, and in all corridors. It's a statewide problem," says Natalie Dale of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

One puzzle the DOT cannot figure out is how the thieves keep getting away with it.

"How they get them out and what they are doing with them is a question we are eager to answer," Dale said.

One big clue for the DOT would be where the grates going?

"We want to know where these criminals are selling the metal and where they are taking the metal. Are they going out of state?" Dale wonders.

DOT says the arrow does point in that direction

"There hasn't been concrete evidence linked to scrap yards in Georgia," she said.

Being considered as one way to catch the thieves is a possible reward.  For now, no reward, just hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money being spent to replace the stolen grates.

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