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Danger warning to Hampshire cyclists as drain covers stolen

Thieves looking to cash in on scrap metal value are putting lives at risk, says council

Cyclists and other road users in Hampshire are being warned to be especially vigilant following the theft of drain covers across the county.

Hampshire County Council said that last year, it had to replace 68 drain covers – also known as gully covers – that had been stolen, at a cost of  more than £100,000.

The thefts have continued into the New Year, reports Hampshire Live, with a resident of Fareham warning social media users that a drain cover had been taken in the town’s Dryden Close.

Hampshire County Council says that drain covers are being stolen for their scrap value, but stressed that it was a mistake to consider their theft as a victimless crime, due to both the cost of replacing them, and the danger that uncovered drains can pose to people including those on bike or on foot.

Councillor Nick Adams-King, the council’s executive lead member for universal services, said: “In order to bring those responsible to justice, we need residents to be our eyes and ears on the ground.

“I would ask anyone who sees any suspicious activity involving highway apparatus or has any information about a drain cover theft to please report this to the police as soon as possible.

“I would also be grateful to anyone who spots that a drain cover is missing to let us know quickly so that the Highways team can take appropriate action to keep our roads safe.

“While those responsible for the thefts might think this is a victimless crime, they are profoundly mistaken,” he continued.

“They are risking residents’ safety and stealing from the public purse. In 2021, for example, the cost to replace 68 stolen drain covers was in excess of £100,000.”

“As soon as we become aware that a cover has been taken, our Highways team will deploy cones or barriers to reduce the risk of harm to road users and they’ll assess the type of replacement drain covers needed so new ones can be ordered and fitted as soon as possible.

“Our teams are also exploring the availability of replacement items made from innovative composite alternatives that have no scrap value. However, these are unlikely to be suitable for all sites and they are generally only intended as a temporary fix.

“Please therefore take extra care on the roads while we do all we can to make the affected areas safe as quickly as possible.”

The council also urged people to call the council to report missing drain covers on 0300 555 1388 from 0830-1700, Monday to Friday, or outside those hours to call police on 101 or – if lives were believed to be in imminent danger – 999.

A number of incidents involving theft of drain covers have been reported across the country over the past 12 months, with thieves often targeting a specific area over several days.

In March last year, police in Doncaster arrested a 26-year-old man on suspicion of theft and criminal damage after 25 drain covers were discovered in the boot of a car.

That arrest came as South Yorkshire Police investigated the theft of more than 200 drain covers in Doncaster two months earlier.

At the time, Councillor Mark Houlbrook of Doncaster Council, said: “Not only is replacing these covers costing the taxpayer thousands, but drains which are not safely covered can be really dangerous.

“When drain covers are stolen, holes are left in the road or the pavement which can result in serious harm and injury to drivers, pedestrians, children and cyclists.”

Other parts of the country that have been targeted in the same way over the past year include Walsall in the West Midlands, where almost 350 drain covers were stolen over several months, with the council having to spend more than £110,000 to replace them.

In response to those thefts, Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council, pledged to “come down heavily on scrap dealers who allow these to be ‘weighed in’, as a drain cover’s purpose is patently obvious,” and said that the council would be replacing the stolen drain covers with ones that are much harder to remove.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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