LaGrange Park looks to new law to deter sewer grate thefts
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:51AM
LAGRANGE PARK — A new state law is expected to curb the thefts of sewer grates and other items guarding public safety, effective Jan. 1.
Changes to the Recyclable Metal Purchase Registration Law go into effect Jan. 1 to ban the sale for scrap of such materials as sewer grates, manhole covers, electrical transformers, historical markers, street and traffic signs, railroad components, cemetery plaques and guardrails.
The amendments also ban scavengers from attempting to sell catalytic converters yanked from vehicles, unless the seller is licensed as an automotive parts recycler or scrap processor.
“This should put a serious dent into the resale of stolen articles of this type,” said Phil Kubisztal, deputy police chief of LaGrange Park.
Five sewer grates, valued at about $1,000, have been stolen since November in La Grange Park. A grate theft also was reported Saturday on the southeast corner of Oak Street and Hampton Avenue in Western Springs.
“It’s very aggravating when you know they’re being stolen to be sold as scrap, and the junk yards will take them,” Kubisztal said.
LaGrange Park residents reported two grates missing Thursday from near Castle Circle and Robinhood Lane and a third grate stolen a block away at 30th Street and Robinhood.
Police later learned grates also had been stolen the end of November from near Spring and Oak avenues, as well as at 28th Street and Beach Avenue.
“It’s happened in other towns before, but not in LaGrange Park,” Kubisztal said. “Some other towns have had the big round manhole covers stolen from the middle of a street.”
Grate thefts also have been reported in Westchester, Broadview, Forest Park, North Riverside and Hillside, where manhole covers also were stolen. In the Hillside incident a witness reported seeing two men taking the large covers and placing them in a black Cadillac Escalade and a red Chevy Tahoe during early morning hours.
Kubisztal said some communities have welded sewer grates in place to deter thieves, but that makes it difficult to conduct sewer repairs.
“We want people to be aware of these thefts for their own safety and also to be an extra set of eyes and ears,” Kubisztal said. “If you don’t see a Public Works truck or crew, chances are something is not quite right. We’d much rather have people call us about something suspicious.”
The new law also places more stringent regulations on sellers, including a photo or video required of the seller and the scrap material being sold.