Someone is removing storm drain covers in Anchorage, and police are warning that this causes an immediate public safety hazard that could “cost someone their life,” Anchorage police said in an alert Thursday.
Anchorage police said the drains vary in depth from 3 to 15 feet deep, and that removing the grate “leaves a gaping void in the ground large enough for a pedestrian to fall through.”
“It’s also big enough to stop a vehicle in its tracks which could easily injure the occupants inside and/or cause a traffic crash,” police said. Bicyclists could also be thrown from their bike and injured, police said.
Over the last several weeks, more than 24 storm drain covers have been removed and then dropped into their drain, Anchorage police said. So far, covers have been removed from drains along roadways including Muldoon Road, Tudor Road, Boniface Parkway, Old Seward Highway, and Rabbit Creek Road.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities also issued a warning on Facebook and Twitter, calling the removals a “prank” that “might seem harmless” but that actually causes a “hard-to-see safety hazard for walkers, bikers and drivers.”
It’s not clear who is responsible for removing the storm drain covers, how many people are participating or why.
“The suspect, or suspects, have not been identified. As such, we do not know the reasoning behind the behavior,” Anchorage police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said Thursday.
Police aren’t aware of any injuries associated with the removal of storm drain covers at this time, she said.
Because removing the storm drain covers causes immediate danger, Department of Transportation employees have to respond immediately and often after-hours, police said. Sometimes a new cover has to be purchased.
Between the extra hours and damage, it’s costing the transportation department thousands of dollars, police said.
“Please people, our staff has a lot of other items to take care of over the summer, with a razor thin budget. Don’t remove the drain covers,” the Department of Transportation wrote on Facebook.
Police have asked that anyone with information regarding the matter call police dispatch at 311.
“It’s absolutely vital that this malicious behavior stops before someone either dies or experiences serious physical injury,” police said.
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