The U-shaped pipe acts as a valve to prevent irrigation or other water from “backflowing” into the potable water source for the building. Most jurisdictions in the county have mandated the use of these valves in commercial buildings. The thieves drive up, sometimes dressed in orange vests to look like city employees, take a saw and cut the valve off at the pipes. The whole process can take less than two minutes. These thefts have occurred in broad daylight and also have happened at prominent and visible locations. Replacing these backflows can cost as much as $3,000 to $6,000. Their removal by thieves will also interrupt water service for your property and tenants, as well as the possible water damage created from the water running uncontrolled through the open connection.
Theft comes when you least expect and then you can’t provide enough protection fast enough. Over last few years there has been a rash of commercial irrigation and domestic water backflow preventers stolen for their scrap metal. While the scrap metal value for the brass and copper contained within these fittings is only about $25, brazen thieves are making short work of stealing as many as they can, sometimes twice from the same properties. Backflow preventers, water regulators and pump systems are easily recognized, usually placed above ground along the street frontage for most commercial properties.