thieves cashing in on the soaring value of scrap metal stole drain covers from Sheffield streets as residents slept.
Residents condemned the thefts after discovering them yesterday, claiming they were in danger of falling down the holes that had been uncovered, or damaging their vehicles.
Sheffield Council said four covers had been taken from Meersbrook Avenue and one each from neighbouring Pearson Place and Wellby Place, in Meersbrook Bank.
A council spokesman said: “These have now been temporarily replaced with recycled plastic alternatives.”
The thefts came as Yorkshire Water announced it was using new fibreglass manhole covers as an alternative to metal in a trial aimed at saving the company cash.
It claims metal theft, sparked by the rising value of scrap around the world, was costing the company hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.
Soaring commodity prices are fuelling the underground market for metals, with thieves wreaking havoc across communities - stealing from buildings, stripping telecommunication cables and targeting the railways.
Last year Yorkshire Water spent about £410,000 replacing stolen metal parts from its operational sites and facilities, including around seven kilometres of earthing cable, tonnes of lead and galvanised metal grating, locks and chains, metal signs and site fencing.
The firm claims South Yorkshire is a ‘particular hotspot’ and says last year the company had to replace hundreds of manhole covers.
A spokesman said: “This theft is costing a significant amount of money, but is also putting lives at risk.
“The company has already seen a number of incidents where unsuspecting members of the public have injured themselves on open manholes, after the covers had been removed and stolen for scrap.”
The firm is trialling plastic covers, which are cheaper to install and have no scrap value. They will be introduced across the region if reports of thefts drop.
Peter Ramsay, of Yorkshire Water, said: “Metal theft is a serious issue for us and we’re trialling a number of new initiatives, including using fibreglass manhole covers, in our ongoing efforts to reduce it.”
n To report metal theft call police on 101.