Suspects impersonate city workers to steal backflow valves in Peoria

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Backflow valves are commonplace at commercial buildings, parks and schools, and although styles may vary they look something like this. By Jennifer Thomas Backflow valves are commonplace at commercial buildings, parks and schools, and although styles may vary they look something like this. By Jennifer Thomas

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Peoria police say suspects are impersonating city workers to steal backflow valves.

Jay Davies with the Peoria Police Department said 22 valves have been stolen in the city.

"In three cases, witnesses report seeing men dressed or actually boldly representing themselves as city workers, claiming they are on site to work on the water valves," Davies said in a news release. "Business owners later realized the men instead stole the backflow preventer valves."

Witnesses said the suspects are two white or Hispanic males wearing orange and/or green safety vests. Their vehicle is described as a small white sedan, possible a Chevy Cavalier or Dodge Neon.

One man is described as being in his late 30s with blond hair and a goatee. The other is in his late 20s. Both are described as being between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall and 180 to 220 pounds.

While thieves can expect to get $40 or more for every device they take to a scrap yard, the replacement cost for the victim can be as much as $2,000, according to Davies.

In cases where the water system is compromised, considerable collateral damage occurs. Davies said residents of a Peoria care center went without water for 12 hours after a backflow valve was stolen from the center.

In order to steal these valves, the water either has to be shut off or the system damaged, which can disrupt service for hours.

For your own safety, do not challenge anyone who approaches you about working on your backflow valve. Davies advised to cooperate and discreetly contact police if you suspect that workers are not legitimate.

City of Peoria workers drive vehicles with the city's logo, have that same logo on their shirts and have a photo ID.

Police have a few tips to discourage thieves from making your property their next target:

  • Mark the device with a label or stamp denoting ownership.
  • Post a visible warning stating theft of the device will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
  • Plant landscaping to camouflage the device.
  • Wrap the device with a heavy chain and anchor the chain in cement.
  • Build a small barrier wall to hide the device.
  • Enclose the device in a cage or box and secure it with a lock. Anchoring enclosures to the ground with cement will add extra security. (Make sure that workers can gain access to the device for testing and repairs when necessary.)
  • Install the device indoors.
  • Immediately report suspicious behavior.

For more information, go to www.stolenbackflow.com.