Two men are behind bars for something investigators say puts all of us at risk on the roads. Metal thieves are trying to cash in on drainage grates along Pike County highways.
A deputy says he caught two men stealing them along Highway 194 on Wednesday. Lorenzo Yascone, 45, and Charles Thacker, 23, are each charged with theft by unlawful taking and wanton endangerment. Officials tell WYMT's Michel Mason cases like this are becoming all to common. They hope this incident gets the message across that stealing highway equipment will not be tolerated.
Pike County Deputy Tolbert Ratliff spent Wednesday investigating two separate cases of metal theft and he says it's becoming common place in his county.
"It's an epidemic, it's an epidemic. It's everyday we have a metal theft complaint, sometimes three or four a day," said Ratliff.
Ratliff arrested two men along East 194 with eight drain grates in the back of their truck, each worth hundreds of dollars. Now what's left behind could pose a hazard to other drivers on this busy highway.
"Those grates are designed that if a wheel hits it, you know not as much damage to a vehicle, but now it's like hitting a concrete wall," warned Ratliff.
Officials say out of all the metal theft cases they see on a day-to-day basis, nearly every one has a common thread.
"Most of it is drug related, they're stealing the metal to finance their habit," added Ratliff.
Down the road at RJ Recycling, yard managers say they've been asked to buy drain grates and say they are turning away several people each week who come across their scales with stolen metal.
"You know they don't have that stuff at home to bring in. so i mean you know some of it's stolen. you just tell them i can't take it," said Curtis King.
Investigators are working with scrap yards to recover stolen items. They say anyone who buys stolen equipment will also face charges. Scrap yard managers say thieves need to listen up.
"They don't need to do it because it makes my job harder," added King.
Anyone who buys stolen metal could be charged with receiving stolen property. Pike County deputies are working with the Commonwealth's Attorney to crack down on the problem.
You're urged to call the Pike County Sheriff's Department if you see anything suspicious.