For the last several months, the City of Chicago has been mysteriously stripped of metal tree grates and sewer covers.
Officials believe that on Thursday they uncovered a cache of the items worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a West Side recycling business.
Aldermen Scott Waguespack, 32nd, and John Arena, 45th, said several times entire blocks would be stripped of heavy metal sewer covers in a single day.
"We don't have these things sitting in the warehouse to replace," Arena said.
Thursday afternoon, 16th district police officers responded to a theft in progress on the 5000 block of West Pensacola Avenue, according to Chicago Police News Affairs.
Police said officers responded to the call at 2:40 p.m. and took two people into custody for possession of stolen property. They have not yet been charged.
Officers John Ganz and Michael Deneen tracked the thieves south to a recycling business on the 900 block of North Kilpatrick Avenue, where they found piles of metal products, some of which is believed to be stolen city property, according to the aldermen.
Arena drove with Waguespack to the recycling business at 4 p.m. Thursday, after the aldermen were alerted that hundreds of thousands of dollars of city property laid there in massive piles. Tree grates are worth about $1,300 and sewer grates cost about $900 each, they said.
The aldermen said they believe the sewer covers, tree grates and other metal objects are owned by the city of Chicago. Some of the items have "City of Chicago" engraved into the metal. Others have distinctive markings unique to city equipment, the aldermen said.
Waguespack and Arena said some of broken items had not yet rusted, indicating that the items were recently taken.
"Cast iron rusts almost immediately, and these breaks were fresh," Arena said.
Chicago police declined to say if the items were city property and said the investigation was ongoing.