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The Latest Metal Item To Steal For Scrap: Iron Grates Around Trees

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These decorative iron grates around the base of city trees are being targeted by thieves. (CBS)

These decorative iron grates around the base of city trees are being targeted by thieves. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The decorative iron grates at the base of trees in the city are heavy — up to 175 pounds – and they’re in plain view. But that’s not stopping thieves.

They’re lifting them to haul away and selling them for scrap, CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports.

The price tag for a very recent string of thefts was estimated at $40,000, and taxpayers are on the hook.

At first glance, you may not see it, but there is something missing a stretch of Lincoln Avenue in Lakeview. The decorative iron grates the city installed around 20 trees are missing.

Surveillance video from a local business shows men in a Chevy pickup truck swooping in and removing the fixtures.

It’s in Ald. Scott Waguespack’s 32nd Ward, and he’s not happy about it. One of his volunteers, Steve Jensen, is frustrated that thieves would steal something that costs $2,000 each to get a relatively small amount. They speculate the thieves only netted about $1,200 for the string of grate thefts in Lakeview.

“It just shows that these people have no qualms about stealing from citizens,” Waguespak says.

Also, each theft leaves a gaping hole that could be dangerous to pedestrians.

The folks at Dinkel’s Bakery filled up the space the grates used to cover with gravel after the owner witnessed a man sprain his ankle.

Luke Karl, the general manager, hopes the bakery’s surveillance video helps catch the guys who caused the problem.

“Stuff in the public way is not for scrap, it’s not not for the taking,” Jensen says.

Metal thieves hoping to cash in on scrapping the material have stolen everything from brass fixtures from fire hydrants to the kick plates off apartment building doors.

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