WEBSTER – A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday and accused of stealing seven manhole covers from town roads earlier in the week.

Darrin P. Lavallee, 34 Market St., Apt. 2,  faces charges of larceny in connection with the thefts.

The alleged thief was apparently thoughtful enough to put traffic cones in place of the heavy-duty covers in an attempt to minimize the danger to motorists, police said.

Because of the “brazen, daylight crime,” Lt. Tobby Wheeler said, authorities believed the thefts were committed by someone with an addiction.

“But we also knew they had somewhat of a conscience because they put cones out, versus leaving an open hole in the roadway,” he said.

Police recovered the manhole covers from F&D Salvage in Millbury, where the suspect sold them Wednesday.

Investigators said they believe the man acted alone.

The initial call to police was received just before 2:45 p.m. Wednesday. On Nelson Street, police saw that a manhole cover had been taken, and an orange cone had been placed there, Lt. Wheeler said.

A witness described the suspect as a muscular white man with a mustache who wore a ripped leather jacket. He fled in what looked like a Chrysler PT Cruiser, the witness told police.

Lt. Wheeler said police received several other phone calls about missing manhole covers throughout town.

Police officers saturated the area, and just before 5:30 p.m., Officer Bruce Hamm saw a vehicle matching the description given by the witness. It was parked at the Mobil gas station at Lake Street and Thompson Road.

The man in the car was arrested on an unrelated warrant.

Police said they saw orange cones in the back of the vehicle, which they had seized. It was apparent the manhole covers had been in his vehicle at some point, Lt. Wheeler said.

A female passenger was not believed to have been involved in stealing the manhole covers, which the lieutenant said weigh several hundred pounds apiece.

After the suspect and his passenger were interviewed, it was determined he had stolen the manhole covers, police said. The suspect allegedly told police where he had sold them.

Lt. Wheeler called and verified that the manhole covers were at the Millbury business on Thursday morning. Officer Hamm and Detective Steven Cacciapouti, accompanied by town Sewer Department workers, went to the scrap yard to retrieve the stolen items and collect additional evidence.

Police said the suspect had borrowed the vehicle. After its owner consented to a search, police gathered the traffic cones and found the leather jacket described by the witness, Lt. Wheeler said.

Town officials said one of the stolen items was a drainage cover, and the rest were sewer manhole covers.

Sewer superintendent William Burke said the department replaced the stolen covers with spare ones.

The holes are 4 to 12 feet deep, he said.

Mr. Burke said that to his knowledge, it was the first time Webster had experienced manhole cover thefts in his five years in the job. He said his colleagues who had been here for about 20 years told him the same thing.

“From what I know in reading the papers, it happens in more urban areas,” he said.

Moreover, the superintendent said, he had never heard of an alleged thief taking a load exclusively of manhole covers to a scrap yard.

Theoretically, he said, a thief could “slip them by” if he used a truck that also carried multiple pieces of scrap, such as boilers, cast iron radiators and bathtubs.

Mr. Burke also noted the suspect’s apparent concern for other drivers.

“The guy must have been conscientious, but obviously not thinking about what he was doing by showing up at a scrap metal dealer with a truckload of manhole covers,” he said.

It was unknown what F&D paid the suspect. A message left with the company Friday morning was not returned.

Bob Gatzke of Nelson Street said he and his wife “never heard a thing.” He said he had lived on the street 50 years, and other than a couple of car break-ins, the neighborhood is normally quiet.