Metal thefts continue to be a growing problem in our desert after thieves targeted several businesses in Rancho Mirage over the weekend. In fact, the Coachella Valley Water District says it’s been a record breaking year in metal thefts.
“She went to the ladies room, washed her hands and realized that there was no water,” said Melisse Banwer, Management Director at the Tolerance Education Center.
Employees arrived early Monday morning to find two metal backflows stolen from right outside their building, leaving them without running water for most of the day.
“We have a school field trip from Cathedral City High School, there’s about 70 kids and we have no bathrooms for them to use, no water for them to get drinks,” Banwer said.
Students instead had to walk next door to the Weil Institute of Critical Care Medicine to use their facilities. The medical building itself a target just a week ago, when thieves stole the backflows there, leaving them without running water for 2 days.
“It impacts businesses ability to provide service for their customers,” said Patricia McGill, an Executive Assistant at the Institute.
Crews with the Coachella Valley Water District quickly responded to the thefts, replacing the pipes and even adding anti-theft devices to them.
“The devices are not inexpensive, they’re several hundreds of dollars to replace, along with the time, the inconvenience to the businesses,” said Robert Keeran, a spokesperson with the water agency.
They say in the past year, the water district has had more than 500 backflows stolen. This weekend alone, they had a dozen cases reported.
Just around the corner from the Tolerance Center more crews worked to replace the backflows stolen in front of the Dermatology Skin and Cosmetic Surgery Center.
“On days like today we actually have to bring in crew people from other departments to go out and help repair,” Keeran said.
The victims say they’re hoping metal thieves, who just get at the most $50 for some scrap metal, to realize it’s not worth it.
“For us to get targeted, for us to have to disrupt our day to take care of an incident like this for $35?,” said Banwer.
The Coachella Valley Water District says it costs them $1,400 everytime they have to replace those pipes.
“I’m just wondering why a market exists for this, so who is buying the stolen property,” McGill said.
Authorities say there is a black market for scrap metal, even if just for a couple of bucks. They ask homeowners and businesses to try and be vigilant and report any kind of suspicious activity to authorities.