What appears to be petty theft is really adding up in New Kent County and it's causing more than mischief. Sheriff's deputies say someone is going around stealing metal parts from residential water systems. It's led to more than headaches for dozens of families in that area.
Its happening when neighbors least expect it. Someone is stealing water back flow preventer parts in the Brickshire community. They're taking the brass parts right out of people's front yards.
"I had a customer call me down the street to tell me to come take a look, said someone had knocked it over," said Gene Jernigan of Citizen's Irrigation.
It's happened repeatedly. This month alone there have been nearly two dozen reports.
"We have had copper larcenies and wire larcenies in the past and have made recent arrests but this is the first of this nature," said Chief Deputy J. Joseph McLaughlin of the New Kent Sheriff's Department.
He says thieves are trading in the parts for big bucks, but he's hoping to put a stop to it.
"We've certainly passed on information to our local scrap yards and recovery yards in hopes of if they see this type of material coming, they would give us a call," McLaughlin said.
Jernigan's company is getting calls to replace the back flow preventers.
That typically runs around $200, but in some cases, when the thieves hit, residents' water valves are being filled with dirt, causing even more problems that could be expensive to fix.
"It makes it stick and it keeps the water running even after the system cuts off after watering," Jernigan said.
This is considered a misdemeanor but investigators say they're taking it seriously especially since unsuspecting neighbors are paying the price for a crime they never saw coming.
If you know who may be responsible for these metal thefts, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.
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