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13 more sewer grates stolen in Jefferson Township

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 12:17 a.m.

Brazen thieves made off with an additional 13 cast iron storm sewer grates from roads in Jefferson Township, including one taken Wednesday afternoon.

That brings the theft total to 28.

“One Burtner Road grate was there earlier in the day, and it was missing when the road crew went past the area an hour later,” said an exasperated supervisors Chairwoman Lois Rankin.

“It was taken in broad daylight along Burtner Road. In broad daylight. It's hard to believe,” she said. “I don't know what we're going to do.”

Five were taken from Great Belt Road, where the township building is located.

“Can you believe it?” Rankin asked.

Grates have also been taken from Hannahstown, Fisher, Jefferson, Mushrush and Bull Creek roads.

The thefts will cost the township of 5,500 people several thousand dollars to replace, she said.

The sewer grate thefts — as well as stolen traffic signs — will be discussed at Monday's supervisors' meeting, she said.

Rankin said road crew employees were working overtime Wednesday to get as many grates as possible from an area supply company.If the township can't get enough replacements, officials will put up flashing lights and temporarily block the holes.

“This is a public safety issue,” she said. “They leave a hole behind.”

Rankin, a township supervisor since 2009, fears someone walking on the road might not see the hole and fall in. A car pulling over to the side of the road at night could also could have a wheel drop into the hole, she said.

State police are investigating a report that the thieves may be dress like a legitimate road crew.Rankin talked with a resident who said she saw a “road crew” working late Sunday afternoon. The men's pickup didn't have any markings on it.

“We're working to get the township's name on our vehicles,” she said.

State police have stepped up patrols in the township, which doesn't have its own police force.

“We're asking residents to also keep their eyes open and call us,” said Lt. Steve Ignatz of the state police.

Each grate is worth $230 or more at a scrap yard, but costs $300 or more to replace.They probably aren't being taken to any local scrap yard, he said.

“It's not unusual for these thieves to drive three or more counties away to sell them,” Ignatz said.Police are asking area officers to ask for someone taking grates to scrap yards.State police have also filed email alerts that will be circulated in the region by The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc.

ISRI routinely informs scrapyard owners about major metal thefts across the country through ScrapTheftAlert.com.

The site helped state police to find special steel taken from ATI/Allegheny Ludlum at Harrison.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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