A reader's ingenuity breeds theft-prevention business


This product proves how good our readers are at stretching the taxpayer's dollar. A other bonus: In this case, the result is an inexpensive solution to a challenge most public works departments face.

Last Halloween the Cincinnati Stormwater Management Utility faced a two-fold problem. In addition to missing storm grates throughout the city — thanks to thieves who've found a niche selling scrap metal — the area had also experienced multiple storms in one day that flooded the streets.

“We needed to replace the grates ASAP,” says Jerry Taylor, who was a field supervisor with the utility at the time. “The kids were going to be trick-or-treating that night, and we didn't want them stepping off curbs and into holes hidden under water.”

He wanted to secure the city's new grates, but couldn't find a locking mechanism designed specifically for them. “I checked with all of our suppliers; I even checked with other cities and on the Internet,” he says.

Padlocks were out of the question because they'd present a tripping hazard. So Taylor bought supplies from a local hardware store and welded them together to make a lock that wouldn't protrude from the grates.

He's perfected his prototype and is making it commercially available. His fledgling company offers four steel models for single- and double-gutter grates, ranging from $35 to $55. If you're willing to pay an additional fee, order the lock with a high-security screw instead of a standard tamperproof screw (both made by Bryce Fastener Inc.) — it can be removed only with a customized key tailored to your city.

Either way, the lock's quick and easy to install and remove: click the lock in place and tighten with the specialized wrench that comes with it.


Product: Storm grate lock
Manufacturer: Matt-Locks-USA
Headquarters: Cincinnati


To read Saving When Repaving, American Highway Products' report on extending pavement life and cutting manhole raising costs, click here.