Beware next time you walk around your neighborhood, people are literally stealing the ground under your feet. Scrap metal thieves will take anything metal that isn’t nailed down. In recent years there have been reports of thieves taking aluminum railings at Riis Park, copper gutters at Holy Cross Church, aluminum seating in the stands at Juniper Valley Park and even statues and vases at local cemeteries. Another target has been the metal grates that cover utility openings such as manhole covers, sewer grates, gas vents plates, tree pit grates and the caps off fire hydrants.

Thieves are cutting the thick wire that grounds the pole to prevent damage from an electrical problem or lightning strike on wooden telephone poles. The wire is made of copper and they cut what they can reach. You can see where this has been done in front of Crowley Park on 57 Avenue, among many other places.

We have been advised by the NYC Fire Department that when the caps are removed from the fire hydrants the threads will rust and this can hamper the fire fighters from connecting the hoses and delay their response time. Usually these caps are attached with a short chain, which is easily cut with a bolt cutter.
Captain Cody of the 104 Precinct has informed us that the thieves are scouring the area for whatever they can get. They go right into homeowners’ yards and take what they can carry and usually use a metal shopping cart from a store to cart it away. There have been some recent arrests when one male went into someone’s yard and stole a battery from a vehicle and two guys were caught jumping a fence of a scrap metal business.

Captain Cody said if you see someone with a shopping cart full of metal to report it immediately to 911. When I saw two guys entering every yard in Maspeth around 72 Street and 51 Avenue I called 911 but the operator said to call 311 instead even when I explained that Captain Cody of the 104th Pct. told us to call 911. By the time the police arrived the thieves were long gone. It seems the agencies are not on the same page with this problem.

If you see missing metal plates please report it at once to 311 and they might give it to a 911 operator if they feel it’s a serious hazard. Someone could easily fall and be seriously injured when there is a missing plate on a sidewalk. If a manhole or a sewer cover is missing a car could crash or someone could fall right in and get killed.

This is not just a local issue because my cousin who lives in a nice town on the Jersey Shore reports the same problem in his area. With the economy down and the price of scrap metal up some will look for easy money at other people’s expense. Don’t be a victim report all problems to 311 or 911. If you don’t who will?