EXCLUSIVE: 3 arrested after string of copper thefts in Campbell

CAMPBELL, Calif. (KGO) -- Campbell Police arrested three people for charges related to copper theft. They believe these three people are responsible for taking very expensive backflow valves at area businesses and recycling the metal for money.

Tony Alvarez, 54 Kelly Mack, 49 and John Fung, 52, all from San Jose, were booked into jail on several felonies including attempted grand theft, conspiracy to commit a crime and other drug-related charges.

They were arrested on September 8 at the Campbell Technology Parkway business complex where six valves were taken since August 29.

"These individuals were right near one of the areas where the backflow devices were stolen, and based on the fact they had tools and another stolen device it appeared that they had been responsible for the prior thefts," said Campbell Police Captain Gary Berg.

Backflow valves keep unsafe water from entering the water supply. They can cost more than $1,000, but If you recycle it, it will only get you anywhere from $40 to $100.

Captain Berg say businesses in secluded areas can be prime targets but regulations put in place a few years ago have helped. They require people who recycle metal to give their identification.

"We have seen a decrease in thefts since that time but they are still occurring. And obviously once a location is identified then the thefts seem to occur more often," said Berg.

Campbell Police has some advice for businesses and individuals to keep their copper plumbing and other items safe:

Step 1 - Paint your backflow valve or spray with a truck bed liner coating to decrease its scrap value. Stamp, label (multiple places), or identify the metal with a recognizable code.

Step 2 - Enclose the backflow valve within a protective cage or metal box. The cage should be secured or mounted to the ground. Put a high quality lock on the cage. Lock guards protect locks from bolt cutters.

Step 4 - Post a visible warning sign mentioning security and prosecution.

Step 5 - Consider plastic options since they are considered less valuable to thieves due to the minimal amount of brass and copper contained in the device.

Step 6 - Disguise your backflow valve by covering and grouping with other natural landscape surroundings.
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