The demand for brass and copper has outstripped the supply causing scrape metal prices to soar to all-time highs. The combination of a struggling economy that has left millions of people without work and soaring scrape prices has created
a problem for both commercial property and home owners. Scrape metal thieves are stripping anything that contains brass and copper from both unoccupied and occupied buildings. These thieves are so brazen that they will even remove back-flow preventers during the middle of the day. With the high metal prices the rats have been coming out of their holes.
To some readers the theft of back-flow devices may be news but to me as a property owner and manager who has personally experienced these thefts so many times that I can’t count them all on two hands it is getting old very fast. Recently thieves were so bold as to steal the back-flow device and cage that I’d installed to protect the device as if to send a message that I couldn’t stop regardless of what I did to try. Furious at this latest theft I’m now looking for a trap big enough to catch these rats.
It is my understanding that a back-flow preventer brings about $250 on the scrape market but, as I’ve experienced, will cost anywhere from $2,000 – $6,000 to replace. Certainly a very profitable two minutes work for the thief but an extremely high price to the victim. With all of these back-flow devices being stolen why hasn’t someone started to manufacture a device from some other material that may have little or no scrape value. More to the point, why aren’t law enforcement offices visiting scrape dealers and questioning the stack of operational back-flow devices they have in their possession?
I do believe there is another solution which may not help those individuals who already have a back-flow device installed but would help those who are purchasing a back-flow device today. Require back-flow device manufactures to place an identification number on the device and for the plumbers who install the device to then register that number with the proper department within the municipality. The benefit will be that municipality will then have an accurate record of the device so they can keep of units needing annual inspections and law enforcement will have a way to identify scrape yards that a trafficking in stolen goods. The perfect rat trap.