Maybe the sleuths of Noir at the Bar (great name) can solve the manhole
covers mystery in Philly...?
See below from the NYTimes...
By the way the Tritone Bar has an thoughtfull and funny review in the always
excellent Philadelphia Weekly :
There is also the ³Bar Noir² in Philly on 18th street (a funky-rock dive)
but I donıt think you are refering to that one??
...and the Philadelphia Weekly has the vicious and hillarious columns called
On The Radar by Steven Wells (of NME and GobTv fame) which are absolutely
On 7/23/08 7:49 PM, "Edward Pettit" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> If you're in the Philadephia area, come on by to Noir at the Bar on Sunday
> Aug 3, 6PM at the Tritone Bar on South St., a series hosted by Peter Rozovsky
> of the Detectives Beyond Borders blog
> The guest crimewriter of the evening will be Dave White, whose new Jackson
> Donne PI novel, The Evil That Men Do, is a fine book. White will be reading
> from the book, then sit for a "noir conversation" with me. The last two Noir
> at the Bar events, with Duane Swierczynski and Jon McGoran (aka DH Dublin)
> were really great. This time we're hoping to podcast the event, as well.
> More info at Detectives Beyond Borders.
> Ed Pettit
> Ed & Edgar, my adventures in the cult of Poe.
> The Bibliothecary, a blog of literary endeavour.
> http://bibliothecary..squarespace.com/ <http://bibliothecary.squarespace.com/>
July 23, 2008 Philadelphia Streets Unsafe for Manhole Covers
By IAN URBINA
PHILADELPHIA Francis McConnell is a field supervisor for the Philadelphia
Water Department, but lately he is acting more like an undercover police
Several hours a day, five days a week, he stakes out junkyards. Pretending
to read a newspaper, Mr. McConnell sits near the entrances and writes down
descriptions of passing pickup trucks and shirtless men pushing shopping
His mission is to figure out who is stealing the cityıs manhole covers and
its storm drain and street grates, increasingly valuable commodities on the
scrap market. More than 2,500 covers and grates have disappeared in the past
year, up from an annual average of about 100.
Thieves have so thoroughly stripped some neighborhoods on the cityıs north
and southwest sides that some blocks look like slalom courses, dotted with
orange cones to warn drivers and pedestrians of gaping holes, some nearly 30
Two adolescents were injured in recent months after falling into uncovered
holes, motorists and cyclists are increasingly anxious about damaging tires,
and the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars $300,000 at last
count to replace the missing covers.
³They used to say the streets around here will swallow you up, but they were
talking about drugs and guns,² said Keith Thomas, 32, as he hoisted a
radiator he collected onto a scale at a junkyard in a drug-ravaged section
of the Kensington neighborhood on the cityıs north side.
City crews tried screwing down the covers with hexagonal bolts, but the
thieves responded with Allen wrenches to unscrew them.
The city pressed scrap dealers to refuse material marked as city property;
but the thieves adapted again, using blow torches to partially cut up or
melt off the city labels.
One thing has helped. A Water Department worker, Fred Feoli, designed a way
to lock the manhole covers from the inside. But so far, only 300 of the
cityıs more than 70,000 manhole and inlet covers have been locked.
So for now, Mr. McConnell is stuck with conducting the surveillance of
³Iım here because the real police are too busy chasing serious crimes like
shootings and murders,² said Mr. McConnell, craning his neck hoping to
glimpse what was in the back of a van entering a scrap yard.
Thieves can get $5 or $10 for wrought-iron inlet covers, which weigh about
40 pounds and cover curbside drains. The larger manhole covers in the center
of the streets weigh about double and triple that and are worth
The problem is playing out elsewhere too.
Phoenix has lost more than 160 of its manhole covers and street storm drains
this year, up from 10 last year.
More than 80 drains and manhole covers have been stolen in Long Beach,
Calif., this year and at least two local car owners who drove over the open
chambers have filed claims against the city.
Starting last year, such thefts in Cleveland, Memphis, Miami and Milwaukee
have more than doubled compared with other years, although New York reports
no such increase.
³We have had our share of copper theft,² said Michael S. Clendenin, a
spokesman for Con Edison in New York. But ³New Yorkers are a pretty alert
bunch and anyone trying to tuck a manhole under their arm in Times Square
would look pretty suspicious.² He added that the utilityıs covers weighed
For most of the cities, the increase started in the spring of last year as
the price of steel and iron surged because of a growing demand for recycled
metals in China and India. Thieves have been pulling up anything metal
screen door frames, plumbing fixtures, copper wiring they can get their
Long Beach is considering plastic covers, and Miami has started welding the
covers in place. Cleveland is sealing manholes with tar, and Phoenix has
assigned four police detectives to a task force that is investigating the
Several water districts have started offering cash rewards to whistleblowers
who report attempted thefts, and the Institute of Scrap Recycling
Industries, the industryıs largest trade organization, has begun sending
alerts to scrap dealers whenever law enforcement officials inform the
association of a theft.
State lawmakers are also taking action. At least 28 states have proposed
bills this year increasing penalties for metal theft or requiring metal
recyclers to fingerprint customers and keep better transaction records,
according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen of the
bills have become law.
Conrad Stipp, the manager of Coach II Car, a junkyard in a gritty section of
North Philadelphia, said junkyards were not to blame.
³The same people who are stealing from the city are stealing from me,² he
said, pointing to a gaping hole in the ceiling of his office.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Stipp said, thieves cut a five-foot-wide hole through the
roof of his building and stole all the copper he had, including the pipes in
his office bathroom.
³You think I want to attract these types by accepting stolen city property?²
Across the street from Mr. Stippıs junkyard, Mr. McConnell shook his head as
he recounted how he confronted two men with a shopping cart full of manhole
and inlet covers entering the yard two weeks ago.
When approached, the men said they had found the covers abandoned several
blocks away already in the cart, Mr. McConnell said.
He said his department filed police reports every several weeks when city
property was spotted being bought or sold. So far, he said, the city has
made three arrests.
Listening to a description of surveillance efforts by the Water Department
and recent arrests, John Sergeant, a scrap collector from North
³These guys here,² Mr. Sergeant said, pointing at one scrap yard, ³Theyıd
buy a police cruiser and melt it down if we brought it in. The prices for
metal are just that good these days.²
Stolen Statue Sold for Scrap
CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) Thieves who stole a one-ton bronze statue of a
horse from the former Garden State Park racetrack cut the statue into
thousands of pieces, which they sold as scrap to a junkyard in Camden.
Sgt. Joseph W. Vitarelli, a Cherry Hill police detective, said the statue
sold as scrap for a few thousand dollars, a small fraction of its value as
Three men were arrested Monday and charged in the theft. A fourth man had
been arrested earlier.
Bob Driehaus and Ken Belson contributed reporting.
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