Thieves will steal almost anything these days, and that includes storm drain grates. Jerry Taylor believes he has a remedy.
Taylor, field supervisor for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (Ohio), has developed an easy-on, easy-off lock to secure stormwater grates as a deterrent to theft.
“It all started last year a couple weeks before Halloween,” Taylor says. “We had a couple go missing here and there, and it wasn’t that big of a deal, but then on Halloween day, we had eight of them stolen. The grates just sit in the frames. They weigh maybe 100 to 120 pounds. The thieves just pick them up, put them in the back of a pickup, drive away, and sell them for scrap.”
Recognizing the extreme danger posed by an uncovered storm drain, Taylor began calling city suppliers to see if anyone made a lock for the grates. “I couldn’t find anything to lock them down,” he recalls. “So I got on the Internet and searched around and couldn’t find anyone who made a lock.”
Necessity being the mother of invention, Taylor began working on the problem himself.
“I went to a hardware store and bought some C-clamps and started cutting them up and welding them back together,” he says. He came up with a basic design, then went to his supervisor and asked if he could develop his invention without violating any city policies. After getting the green light, he engaged a manufacturer to refine the design and make it suitable for mass production.
The design is still based loosely on a C-clamp (a demonstration video can be viewed at www.mattlocks usa.com). The user positions the device in the storm grate and uses a special wrench to turn a tamper-proof bolt and tighten it down.
Taylor knew the lock had to go on and off easily. “We clean our storm basins once every two years,” he says. “It had to be a lock that you wouldn’t have to drill or spend man-hours applying — you’d just walk up, put it on, tighten it down and you’re done. When it comes time to clean the basin, you just loosen it up, take it off, do your cleaning, and put it back on.”
Taylor sees potential for the locks not just for cities but for private businesses with large parking lots that require drainage. He observes that one local grocery store chain has seen 13 storm grates stolen from its properties in recent months.