LIVES are being put at risk by thieves stealing manhole covers, say concerned police and council chiefs.
Over recent weeks, covers have been stolen from several towns and villages in south east Northumberland.
More than a dozen have been taken on various occasions in Bedlington, and others have been stolen from roads in Ashington, Cambois, Guide Post and Lynemouth.
Police and Northumberland County Council officials fear it is only a matter of time before the thefts, because they leave open holes in the ground, lead to a pedestrian or motorist being injured.
Superintendent Allan Brown, of the police’s Northumberland area command, said: “It’s dangerous and irresponsible, as it’s easy enough for pedestrians to fall into the holes and badly injure themselves.
“If a motorist was to drive over one of the uncovered holes, it could cause an accident and injure a number of people.
“The offenders should think before they commit a crime like this.
“They could be putting people in danger for the sake of a bit of scrap metal, even their own family and friends.
“It’s just not worth it.
“We’re appealing for the public to help us identify who’s stealing these manhole covers, and they can do so by ringing us when they see people lifting manhole covers or working on them.
“These activities are not only very costly to the public purse, but are putting both pedestrians and drivers at risk.”
Cramlington county councillor Alan Armstrong, pictured, the council’s executive member for highways and transport, said: “It is appalling that people are creating a hazard and a nuisance by stealing manhole covers to make a small amount of extra cash.
“It is certainly disappointing that resources are having to be used to manage the actions of these individuals, and we would urge anyone who has any information or sees anyone acting suspiciously around manhole covers to contact the police or the county council.
“We are replacing the steel manhole covers with heavy-duty plastic ones to avoid this problem in the future, but there are resources involved in this which could be put to much better use.”
Police are currently running Operation Coin, aimed at targeting metal thefts across the county.
More than 1,300 vehicles have been stopped and checked since its launch last November.
To report a manhole cover theft, call police on 03456 043043 ext 69191.