Poinciana, FL – Polk County authorities have arrested 40-year-old Christopher Fink of Shady Cove West. He faces felony charges for grand theft, providing false verification, and dealing in stolen property for stealing and reselling 177 manhole covers. Multiple reports indicate Fink initially stole and sold 166. Further investigation by authorities unearthed 11 more thefts.
On average, the typical round manhole cover weighs more than 50 kg, which equates to roughly 110 lbs. Depending on the design and material, the weight can vary. In this case, each cover weighed closer to 80 lbs. The weight keeps them in place when traffic passes over them. Manhole covers are often made out of cast iron, sometimes with inlays of concrete. They are intended to allow access into sub-street sewer and maintenance spaces running underneath streets and sidewalks.
Fink resold over 13,000 pounds of cast iron manhole covers, worth more than $22,000, to local metal dealers as scrap, reports The Ledger. The thefts transpired over a week in the Lake Marion Creek area of Poinciana according to Toho Water Authority spokeswoman Mary Guidone. The majority of the covers stolen were located on the side of the road and not in roadways. Thankfully, no pedestrian injuries were reported.
Due to limited supplies, it will take time to replace the manhole covers at a cost of $141 each. Until then, open holes have been covered with plywood and marked with caution tape.
Manhole cover theft isn’t a new crime, as the payout for scrap metal has risen. Although it may be seen as simple vandalism, serious injuries and deaths have occurred from falls associated with missing manhole covers.
In May 2008, Newsweek reported about how 12-year-old Shamira Fingers from South Philadelphia was walking down a city street near her home when she suddenly fell into an open sewer hole. Investigators say Fingers was very fortunate to escape serious injury or even death after falling six feet into an open manhole, the cover of which had been stolen. Over the course of a year a staggering 600 manhole covers had been swiped by thieves in Philadelphia. Chicago lost 200 in one month, with 40 reportedly taken in a single day.
These crimes usually involve more than one person. Therefore, Fink may likely be the record holder for a single thief operation, stealing as many as he had in a week’s time.
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