Money Going Down the Drain with Recent Thefts

Flushometer Theft Rate Has Declined, Campus Property Stolen So Far Valued Around $8,000

Photo: Bathrooms throughout campus continue to be vandalized by metal thieves, though the rate of thefts has dropped recently. UCPD says the investigation remains ongoing.
Sean Goebel/File
Bathrooms throughout campus continue to be vandalized by metal thieves, though the rate of thefts has dropped recently. UCPD says the investigation remains ongoing.

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A growing number of campus restrooms have fallen victim to the recent outbreak of flushometer burglaries, though the frequency of the incidents appears to have subsided.

In the week between Jan. 22 and Jan. 28, at least 20 flushometers were reported missing from 11 different campus buildings.

Since then, the total number of reportedly stolen flushometers has climbed to 29 and now spans 12 campus buildings, according to UCPD logs. Three drain gates, five end caps and three fire hydrant valve caps have also been reported missing.

And at a time when ongoing budget cuts continue to ravage campus coffers, the value of the stolen property now approaches $8,000.

UCPD Lt. Alex Yao said police believe the flushometer burglaries are connected, but added the investigation is still ongoing.

"We have not made arrests yet," Yao said. "It's still in the investigating stage, but we're still making progress."

Yao estimated that each flushometer costs $150 to purchase and $105 to install.

UCPD has redirected staff and resources to conduct more patrols inside campus buildings, which Yao said may have contributed to the decrease in frequency of incidents.

Because incidents have occurred in buildings all across campus, UCPD is conducting patrols in as many buildings as possible, Yao said.

He added that "numerous buildings" have security cameras, but he did not elaborate on whether or not footage was being used in to help in the investigation.

Although Yao said he could not specify why the items were taken, it is not particularly uncommon for stolen metal objects to be recycled or sold for profit.

A study conducted by the University of Indianapolis Community Research Center in November found that, when interviewed, metal thieves said they were "interested in high value, portable items that are easy to dispose of and difficult to identify."

To help curb an "increasing rate of metal theft throughout California," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a slew of bills into law in September aiming to make it more difficult for metal thieves to cash in on their wares, according to a statement from the governor's office.

The laws require a three-day waiting period for metal recycling facilities to pay those attempting to sell scrap metal. They also require that the potential seller show a valid state ID and give a thumbprint.

Facilities are also required to report what materials are being recycled to local authorities on a daily basis.

Still, the study cited "anecdotal evidence of 'fly by night' scrap purchasers who work out of garages or other mobile operations" that may provide thieves with other potential outlets to sell their goods.

"We are definitely making positive progress right now," Yao said. "But we do ask the campus community that anybody who has information to please contact us."


Contact Chris Carrassi and Tomer Ovadia at [email protected]

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