Hefty Heist: Thieves Snatch 10-Ton Czech Bridge

As people look for a way to make a quick buck in the throes of the economic downturn, a "metal rush" is sweeping through the Czech Republic.

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Some crooks swipe cash, others loot famous artwork, and some … carry off 10-ton bridges? Apparently in the Czech Republic, a gang of thieves forged paperwork that allowed them to disassemble and walk off (albeit slowly) with a footbridge and more than 650 ft. of track from a railway depot in Slavkov.

The pilfered metal is worth $6,300, according to the SZDC, a railway management company, but the railway company will be on the hook for much more in order to replace it. Czech Railways spokesman Pavel Halla told the Telegraph the bridge was worth millions. “The thieves said they had been hired to demolish the bridge, and remove the unwanted railway track to make way for a new cycle route,” Halla said. “It was only after they had gone that checks were made and we realized we’d been had.”

(MORE: 5 Weird Things People Are Stealing While the Economy’s in Bad Shape)

An uptick in metal thefts over the last couple of years has not been cheap for Czech Railways. In the first 10 months of last year, thieves caused $700,000 of damage to railway infrastructure, according to the SZDC. In 2010, the damage exceeded $1.3 million, up from roughly $1.1 million in 2009.

This so-called “metal rush” isn’t limited to bridges and railroads. While scrapyard owners choose to look the other way, looters are cashing in on everything from road signs to church bells to storm drain covers. A common get-rich-quick scheme in times of economic downturn and steep unemployment, metal thievery is not just affecting western Europe. NewsFeed fondly remembers the enterprising thieves here at home that lifted a 50-foot metal bridge off its foundation last October.

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