The streets of Rome have been hit by a spate of robberies of cast iron manhole covers over the Christmas period, mainly in the city districts of Primavalle and Portuense, and Boccea north-west of the capital.
Police believe the robberies are the work of an organised criminal gang which usually targets busy traffic streets where parking is forbidden. This makes it safer for the thieves to load the heavy drain covers (up to 40kg) into vehicles, unnoticed by passersby and usually at night.
Between 2011 and 2012 more than 1,000 manhole covers were stolen from the streets of Rome, leaving roads in a hazardous condition for pedestrians and motorists, particularly motorcyclists.
The stolen iron is sold to illegal scrap merchants at €20 a kilo, with iron more lucrative than copper on the black market.
The manhole robberies follow the extensive theft of copper wires along the tracks between Roma Ostiense and Ponte Galeria last November.