Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

January 23, 2013

Metal thieves often sell to other crooks


Jan. 23, 2013 — Two men drive up to a metal recycling center in a pickup truck. They ask the man at the gate if the yard is accepting cast iron.

The gate man nods his head affirmatively and points the men toward the scales to unload and weigh what appears to be heavy cargo.

They pull back a tarp and expose several cast iron grates, some weighing more than 100 pounds. At this point, the buyer asks no questions about how or why the sellers came into possession of such unusual objects.

The grates are weighed and purchased with cash, again with no questions asked. More than likely, the cash will go to support someone’s illegal drug habit.

These obviously are not the type of drainage grates you buy at Lowe’s for your driveway. They look like they came from a highway.

In fact, that is exactly where they have been coming from for the last few years as metal thieves cart away drain covers on all types of roads, streets, parking lots and driveways throughout Kentucky.

In a recent period, every drainage grate was stolen off KY 67 between I-64 near Grayson and US 23 at Greenup.

That 14-mile stretch of highway is known as the Industrial Parkway because its southern terminus is the EastPark business park near Grayson.

A reader alerted this newspaper that each place on that road where a drain had been placed during construction had an empty hole with orange pylons marking the opening as a hazard to motorists.

Can you imagine what would happen to you, your passengers and your vehicle if you were to hit one of those openings while driving along at freeway speed?

In addition to blowing the tire or tires and crushing the wheels, it undoubtedly would throw the vehicle out of control, perhaps going end over end and likely into oncoming traffic.

In other words, each theft of a highway drainage grate creates the conditions for a horrific, multiple fatality accident.

Another negative factor is the cost to all of us taxpayers when the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has to replace each stolen grate, including many that have to be custom cast, often at an out-of-state foundry.

Add shipping and labor costs for installation and the figure goes even higher, frequently into the thousands of dollars for a single grate.

In our view, any scrap metal dealer who buys such material should be put out of business with the owner and/or manager sent to prison.