PHARR — Thieves are in the market for steel this week in Pharr.
The city has had 35 inlet and storm drain covers stolen in recent days from areas on both the north and south side of the city.
“Usually we get like one or two (stolen) a month,” said Grace Segovia, Pharr’s environmental education coordinator.
The covers cost upwards of $300 to $500 each — meaning this week’s rash of thefts will cost the city at least $10,000 to $18,000. More expensive is welding and bolting them to make them more difficult to steal in the future.
The covers have been replaced quickly, but Segovia emphasized that, in addition to the cost to the city, the thefts represent a hazard to motorists who might drive their cars into manholes and present flood control problems when it rains.
The covers that went missing this week were mostly near the intersection of Sioux and Jackson roads on the north side of U.S. 83 and along Anaya Road in south Pharr.
“They’ve been targeting whole streets,” said Public Works Director Roy Garcia.
Texas Department of Transportation staff also noted an unusual number of steel covers stolen recently within the city.
“As per our maintenance supervisors, most have not seen a rise in the removal of inlets or manhole covers, with the exception of our Brownsville and Pharr maintenance section,” Pharr District TxDOT spokeswoman Elizabeth Paradise said in an email. “Brownsville has reported 62 missing inlets and one manhole and 30 manhole covers (are) missing in Pharr.”
It remains unknown what the reason is for the rash of thefts this week. Pharr officials said the steel is often resold to local metal companies, but they haven’t identified any they know got metal from these most recent missing covers.
“There’s no clues as of yet,” Garcia said. “We’ve called all the companies in this area and they haven’t heard anything, so either they’re taking them directly into Mexico or they’re selling them in another area.”
Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com or (956) 683-4428.