Storm grate thefts send more taxpayer money down the drain

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 11:39 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 20 at 12:47 AM

HOUSTON -- Thieves targeted a northeast Houston street overnight in a theft that has become all too common, and expensive, for the city of Houston.

“Yeah it makes you angry,” said Lloyd Butler standing next to the two storm drains in front of his home on Rinn Street where the grate covers were stolen sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The grates were among about a dozen in the neighborhood that thieves hauled away.

“This is a hazard. I mean somebody could lose control of their car,” said neighbor Clarence Adams whose grandson was also caught playing in one of the uncovered curbside drains.

“He was climbing off in the hole. His brother was standing there watching him along with another little boy. And see that can be very dangerous,” said Adams. “That could have been a tragedy right there.”

“You think about the kids and somebody breaking a leg. Or some old person might pass by and won’t see that big old hole there,” said Butler.

By Wednesday afternoon employees from Houston Public Works had placed barricade markers at some of the storm drains. And one had been replaced with a set of locking grates, a newer defense tactic for a daily problem.

“We’re losing hundreds of grates per year,” said Houston Public Works Spokesperson Alvin Wright told us in a previous KHOU 11 News report on the same problem in 2011. Wednesday he added that locking grates are being used where they can be installed but that welding them in place isn’t practical. Workers have to be able to remove the covers periodically for storm drain cleaning. Wright says thieves sell the $75 to $200 pieces of steel to recyclers for as little as $30 or hide them inside junked cars so that the heavier vehicles will get them more recycling money too.

“I think they need to be caught put up and put in the jail,” said Butler. “ And get them a job where they don’t have to do that.”

“it’s a dangerous thing you know,” added Clarence Adams. “And we just want safety and we don’t want these things to happen in our neighborhood.”

Wright asked that neighbors report anything and anyone suspicious to Houston Police so that the thieves can be caught in the act.

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