Thieves targeting area irrigation backflow preventers

Eighteen stolen in 2 months

Thieves have stolen 18 irrigation backflow preventers in Farragut and West Knox County during the past two months.

“The suspects are kicking the unit and breaking it off. They sell them for scrap and make less than $10 off each piece,” Hillary Martin, a Media Rela-tions spokesperson with Knox County Sheriff’s Office, said.

Irrigation backflow preventers are required by law. Every business or residence with an irrigation system has one in order to prevent unsafe materials such as fertilizer from getting sucked into the system.

Martin said KCSO has issued bulletins and talked with other agencies. She said KCSO’s work with Knoxville Police Depart-ment led to the arrest of Joseph Bean.

Martha Dooley, KCSO Media Relations director, said Bean is suspected of multiple thefts but not all 18.

Martin said KCSO continues to check scrap metal yards in Knox County and works with surrounding counties to check their yards.

She said KCSO had worked with its Crime Analysis Unit to create a crime map.

Martin outlined various ways in which irrigation system owners can prevent thefts.

She said the units must be installed 5 feet from the meter or from the corner of the home, but KCSO recommends installing them closer to the house.

“People are less likely to approach the home to steal them. It’s not as convenient,” Martin said.

Martin said there is an encasement that can be buried in the ground and locked. Only the homeowner and utility company would have access, a key.

She also said there is a security kit that can be placed in the ground with concrete and a chain to secure it.

Home and business owners also can use decorative pieces such as imitation rocks to cover their units.

Martin said all irrigation systems are installed with a water shut-off valve.

“We recommend shutting it off during months of non-use and removing the backflow valve,” she said.

Martin also recommended installing security cameras, which she said would be helpful in deterring theft and helping to identify suspects.

“Being a good neighbor is also always helpful. Call law enforcement if something looks suspicious,” she said.

Martin also recommended good lighting surrounding homes.