Thieves' search for metal to sell for scrap may have moved off the mainland.
Bells and gongs have disappeared from at least seven buoys off the Maine coast, prompting suspicions that they are being stolen and sold, possibly for scrap.
“It's possible that they are being sold to either nautical novelty shops or scrap metal yards,” said Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Chase.
Missing navigational aids put mariners in danger, the Coast Guard said.
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“It can be compared to someone stealing the traffic lights on a busy main street,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Brian Downey.
The missing bells and other hardware can cost taxpayers $400 to $1,000 each to replace, officials said.
Coast Guard intelligence officials are working closely with local shops and scrap yards to identify missing property, Chase said.