METAL thieves look to have met their match after the launch of a unique DNA-style grease marker sparked a 75 per cent drop in manhole covers thefts in Birmingham.
The city council and Amey, which holds the local authority’s road maintenance contract, acted in March having seen 900 grates go missing in just six months.
The thefts had left the council taxpayer with a £250,000 bill.
But there has been a dramatic fall in the number of gratings taken thanks to a special type of grease, called RedWeb.
It leaves an indelible mark visible only under ultraviolet light on the cover itself and anyone who touches it.
In the three months before the launch of the RedWeb grease, 32 gully grates were taken from roads in five wards in the north of the city.
That fell to just eight in the same area in the three months since the introduction of the product
Sergeant Phil Butler, from West Midlands Police’s Operation Steel which targets metal theft, said: “We have been delighted to see a reduction in reported metal theft.
“Improved marking of target materials reduces crime as it’s far easier for police to prove theft and handling beyond a reasonable doubt.’’
Amey Business director John Sunderland said: “We are thrilled that we have had such an instant result with the new product that we are using to deter thieves and this is just the beginning.
“Theft of metal, such as gully covers, from the roads is not a victimless crime as open gully covers are extremely dangerous.”
Amey has also trialed composite recycled plastic covers with no resale value as replacements for the stolen metal covers.
The plastic covers can also be sealed in to prevent further vandalism or theft.
Coun James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, said: “This is a great result for partnership working and sends a stark message to thieves.
“We will simply not tolerate them stealing metal from our roads and putting people’s lives at risk.”