Haifa 'steels' itself for more metal thefts

Police and the municipality of Haifa are losing the war against the city's metal thieves.

Police and the municipality of Haifa are losing the war against the city's metal thieves, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. Dozens of drains around the city have been left without covers because of the thefts, posing a danger to unwary pedestrians and passing vehicles, and the city is finding that it no sooner replaces them than they are stolen once again. According to the report, the annual cost of the metal thefts is in the millions of shekels, with the thieves taking any metal they can find, including memorial plaques, safety rails, water pipes, electricity poles and even old tractors. Lately the thieves have focused on drain covers, and in virtually every neighborhood of Haifa there are open drains in which pedestrians or vehicles may be caught. Numerous residents have complained to the city, but it has been able to offer only the "cosmetic" solution of marking off danger spots with a red ribbon and a warning sign. A municipal spokesman said the wave of metal thefts was continuous and was growing, and was causing "immense damage." He said that in the past few months alone, more than 600 drain covers had been stolen, worth a total of NIS 500,000. The spokesman said it would take about four months for new steel covers to arrive, and in the meantime the city was experimenting with the idea of temporarily covering the open drains with fiberglass covers. The spokesman said that because of the thefts the city was trying to replace metal with other substances wherever possible, in particular using concrete instead of copper for memorials, and was working with police to fight the phenomenon. The report said that apart from drain covers, electrical cables and fire hydrants have also been stolen. Firefighters said the hydrant thefts pose a real risk of fires raging out of control, with one such example having occurred on April 8. That fire, a result of metal thefts, took three days to bring under control. And an Israel Electricity Corporation spokesman said the thefts of electrical cables and poles were costing about NIS 8 million per year and were endangering human lives. A police spokesman said that while a number of storage sites for stolen metal had been found by police and a number of arrests had been made, the phenomenon was still growing worse. "Even with the best will, it is impossible to put a policeman on every street and at every sewerage drain," the spokesman said.