HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) —It started in the city, now manhole thieves are moving to the suburbs. They’re stealing, then selling, hundreds of heavy manhole covers and reaping healthy profits.

Police are trying to determine who stole nine manhole covers from the streets of the Town of Huntington in the past week. The covers were taken from Greenlawn, Northport, Huntington and Huntington Station.

The town has had to replace about 20 of the cast-iron covers at $400 a piece in the past two months, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported. Another 50 have been taken in the Town of Babylon over the past year.

WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reports

Sam Chiaro could have ruined his front axle. What’s worse, Chiaro said, is that his Huntington neighbors and their pets could have dropped down thirty feet if they walked into the huge open holes in the middle of Windham Drive.

“Whoever is doing this is doing this quickly and in a pickup truck or something where they can put it in fast and I don’t believe it’s just one guy because one guy isn’t going to be able to lift that,” Chiaro told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Another homeowner alerted police when a sidewalk cover went missing in front of her home.

“I have little cousins that play in these streets and run around so I definitely see it posing a danger,” said Huntington resident Laura Iannone.

Bill Reynolds is a highway foreman, who is rushing from hole to hole, keeping an extra supply of heavy, expensive replacements in his truck.

Highway Superintendent William Naughton said it costs town taxpayers about $400 to replace each cover. Road crews have also been called in on overtime, sometimes in the middle of the night to avoid disaster.

“Stealing might be for financial gain, but they are creating a real serious problem for the public,” Naughton said.

The price for scrap goes 12 cents a pound. Investigators said vandals might be breaking it up and selling on the black market. They say licenses are required to both buy and sell scrap metal.

Now suburban police are turning to neighborhood cameras, hoping to catch the manhole cover thieves in the act.

Anyone with information is asked to call the police.

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