Brooklyn under a deluge of water meter thefts

Brooklyn under a deluge of water meter thefts

Even cement can’t stop burglars from stealing water meters.

An odd trend in which thieves break into buildings and steal the brass and copper meters — which can be sold for big bucks at scrap yards — has cropped up in Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay and the Avenue U shopping corridor in Homecrest say police.

In one such incident, a burglar was so eager to get the meter, a broke through a cement wall to do so.

Stores burglarized for their water meters include the Penthouse Nail Salon on Avenue U between Ocean and East 21st Street.

“Someone came in, disconnected it and took it,” said a worker at the nail salon, who refused to give his name. “The police are looking into it.”

Here are some other watery crimes:

• A thief broke into the Payless Shoes on Avenue U between East 16th and East 17th streets on May 5. When he realized that the meter was behind a concrete wall, bashed through the wall to get to the meter, police said.

• Someone snipped the lock securing the metal basement doors outside the Salmar Lamp Company on Avenue U between East 22nd and East 23rd streets, taking the water meter as well as the four-inch copper pipes attached to it.

• Over in Bay Ridge, someone cut the pad lock to the basement hatch on a Fort Hamilton Parkway building between 71st and 72nd streets on May 17, and yanked the water meter from the basement wall.

Police in Sheepshead Bay said that four buildings had their water meters looted in recent weeks. In Bay Ridge at least three buildings lost their meters.

But we’re not the only borough being targeted.

“This is something that’s been going on all over the place for the last few years,” said William Morales, the owner of City Water Meter Repair Company in Manhattan. “They’re being stolen from East New York to Greenpoint, in Harlem and even in the Bronx. The price for copper and brass is going through the roof.”

Morales said that water meters weigh about seven pounds and can range from two to nine inches, but their not just taking the meters.

“[The thieves] take the pipes and any other metal they can find,” he said, adding that most water meters can be removed with a wrench. Sometimes, however, people will have to cut the meters out, since they are soldered to the pipes.

Currently, copper is $3.18 a pound. Brass is $1.35 a pound, so if you have enough of it, you could be in for a modest windfall.

But Captain George Mastrokastas, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, said local scrap yards even aren’t paying that much.

“The scrap metal places around here are only paying about $10 or $15 for something the size of the water meter,” said Mastrokastas. “It’s a very small amount of money for the risk.”

Mastrokastas said that if the water meter thieves are arrested, they’ll face burglary charges.

Workers at local yards assured Mastrokastas that they only buy water meters from contractors or plumbers and “not from complete strangers who ride up to them on a bicycle.”

Mastrokastas said that the all of the water meter thefts in his command have been on Avenue U between East 16th Street and East 23rd Street. Since the break-ins, he’s upped patrols along the commercial strip and hasn’t logged a water meter theft in a week.

At the same time, his investigators are pouring through previous arrests of scrap metal collectors to see if there are any similarities to the current thefts, he said.