UCPD Hopes to Flush Out Bathroom Burglar

Photo: At least 19 flushometers have been stolen from toilets in buildings across UC Berkeley since Friday. Police say each one would cost the campus approximately $255 to replace.
Connie Chen/Photo
At least 19 flushometers have been stolen from toilets in buildings across UC Berkeley since Friday. Police say each one would cost the campus approximately $255 to replace.

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UCPD is currently investigating a rash of flushometer burglaries that have crippled toilets in buildings throughout campus since Friday.

At least 19 flushometers-the metal mechanisms used to flush toilets-have been reported stolen from at least 11 restrooms in seven campus buildings. Reports have been filed as late as Tuesday.

UCPD Lt. Alex Yao said the cost to replace each flushometer, including installation, is approximately $255.

The first of the burglaries occurred in Evans Hall and were reported Friday evening, according to UCPD logs. Subsequent incidents have occurred in Latimer, Tan, Barrows, Tolman and Wheeler Halls, and eight flushometers were reported stolen Monday from the Genetics and Plant Biology Building.

Tedi Crawford, the office manager for the Phi Beta Kappa office in the basement of Wheeler, where one of the burglaries reportedly occurred, said she learned of the incident after arriving to work Wednesday.

"It is hugely expensive in a time when we can't even afford a postage stamp," she said. "The bottom line is bathrooms are being trashed, expensive repairs have to be made, and we do have to keep bathrooms open on the campus."

Teresa Ochoa, the building supervisor for Barrows and Wheeler, said she secured the eighth floor of Barrows, including two bathrooms, at 8:20 p.m. A custodian who came in to clean the restrooms at 11 p.m. discovered that one of the flushometers had been unscrewed and removed.

She said the locks on the restroom had been taped to prevent them from closing and locking completely.

"Whoever is doing it, they know exactly when to go into the building," Ochoa said, adding that whoever took the flushometer also shut off the water supply to the restroom and would have required a plumbing wrench to actually remove it.

"Whoever it is, (they're) really equipped," she said.

Yao said people should watch for unauthorized persons attempting to access buildings at night and refrain from propping doors open.

"Officers have increased direct patrols and (are) performing security checks," he said.

Flushometers could be valuable because they can be sold as parts, or the metal could be recycled for up to $2 per pound, according Ryan Guarducci, an employee with Oakland-based Schnitzer Steel.

Guarducci added he has not personally seen an influx of flushometers at the Schnitzer recycling center.

Crawford said the police have not been doing enough to secure the buildings and investigate the burglaries.

"My concern is this is just allowed to happen willy-nilly and everyone says, 'Oh, whatever,'" she said. "No one takes personal responsibility anymore."


Contact Chris Carrassi and Tomer Ovadia at [email protected]

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