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Stolen Parts Not Worth Much

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Dozens of Sioux Falls fast food restaurants, even one of Sanford’s buildings, are on the lookout for a someone who's been stealing from their bathrooms.

The businesses have reported several parts missing from their toilets and urinals, police said the reports started coming in last Thursday and really haven't stopped.

Police said they've received a dozen calls about stolen toilet parts from business such as
Dairy Queen, Burger King and the Royal Fork.

Plumbing businesses have responded first to these thefts and both Hander Inc. Plumbing & Heating and Frisbee Plumbing said they've had just less than 10 calls each in the last five days for stolen parts and it's creating quite the headache for their customers.

Lonny Van Westen, a plumber with Hander Inc. Plumbing & Heating, said they've responded to eight calls about stolen toilet parts from fast food restaurants.

"It's not sanitary, you have to close it down, it's out of order when you don't have a fixture that has a flush valve," said Lonny Van Westen.

These parts have been from men’s' urinals and stalls, both manual and censored auto flushed toilets and he said it doesn't take an expert to steal these parts and the process could be quick.

"With the right tools, you could have it all done within three minutes," said Van Westen.

Police said they've heard of copper thefts, but never toilet parts, in this case, those made of yellow brass, with chrome plating.

Aside from fast food restaurants being hit, one of Sanford's buildings had three bathrooms where parts have been stolen.

"There's probably more out there, we've got, I believe 12 reports of different piping or valves that were taken from toilets," said Officer Sam Clemens.

Clemens said they don't have answers on why this is happening, but have predicted a motive.

"We're guessing that they're probably selling those brass items for scrap," said Clemens.

Van Westen said brass costs around $1.50 a pound, meaning total cost for the stolen scraps would be seven to $10 per toilet, which is next to nothing compared to what it costs to fix the units.

A censored toilet flusher costs $400 and a manual flush, around $260 with parts and service, which is a big price to pay for parts considered a necessity for businesses all over town.

"It's basically an inconvenience for the customer because now they're spending money on a new fixture, which shouldn't have been stolen in the first place," said Van Westen.

TJN Enterprises Scrap Recycling officials said they're working with police to try to track down leads and confirmed the stolen valves are around $1.50 per pound.
Police said some of the restaurants do have surveillance video and officers said they planned to look at the video to try to identify any suspects.
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