Roadside barriers that protect pedestrians from traffic accidents have become the latest target for scrap-metal thieves, who have previously stolen manhole covers, road signs and even hydrant lids. The thieves’ new tactic came to light after police received a report from a Highways Department employee on Tuesday. Officers were informed that a 180-metre stretch of metal railings had been stolen from the pavement of San Chuk Street in Fo Tan. “A total of 120 metal [railings], which are each about 1.5 metres wide, had been stripped leaving behind vertical bars inserted into the ground,” a police investigator said. Each railing had originally been secured between two bars with screws. Police were told that the barriers cost some HK$145,000 in total and officers suspect they might have been sold to scrap-metal merchants. Ng Yat-leung, owner of the Wai Sang Waste Paper and Metal recycling company, said a tonne of metal he collects from scavengers is worth about HK$2,000. But Ng believes no merchant would dare to buy government property such as the barriers. “Profit is very low and I believe no merchants will take a risk,” he said. An initial investigation showed the thieves used a spanner and other tools to unscrew the metal railings one by one, police said. “It was time-consuming and we believe more than two thieves were involved. They escaped with the railings in a delivery vehicle,” one officer said. He said the Fo Tan stretch of railings was likely chosen because it is quiet at night. “It is the first time such a large quantity of roadside barrier has been stolen in the city,” the officer said. Sha Tin District officers will continue to investigate and no arrests have been made. It is not known when the barriers were stripped from the pavement, police said. The railings were last seen on the roadside late last year. Last week, the Highways Department received complaints from residents saying the barriers had been removed. Police said the Highways Department was also checking to see if any other department had been responsible for removing the barriers.