RENO, NV - There's a thief stalking a quiet Cold Springs neighborhood.
He's not looking to break into homes here. In fact he doesn't have to.
What he wants is sitting out in the open, often in the front yard and it's something few of us think about more than twice a year--once in the spring when we turn our sprinkler systems on, once in the fall when we winterize our yards.
It's called a back flow preventer. Its job is to keep water from the outside from siphoning back into the house.
If you have an outdoor watering system you have one of these. The problem is like other items made of brass or copper. It's easy money to a thief who can turn it in to a metal recycler.
It's just part of an on-going chronic crime problem with a lot of targets.
"Copper wiring, light pole wiring, people stripping cars, taking metal from that and turning it into a metal recycler," says Washoe Sheriff's Detective Rob Cook,
At the moment here in Cold Springs, it's back flow preventers. Nine thefts in the past 10 days in this neighborhood, all on or adjacent to White Rock Drive.
Steve Hobbs is the latest victim. Someone in the past couple of days simply snapped off the PVC pipe leading to his preventer.
"It sits there normally, maintenance free, no problems. It's just there," he says. "I came around the corner and noticed it was gone."
These may sound like petty thefts, but they add up and for each victim it is significant.
"I feel violated," says Hobbs. "It's going to cost me a couple hundred bucks out of my pocket, maybe a little less, but I'm going to have to hire somebody make sure they come out."
On the other end, it's hardly a big score for the thief.
"They're getting cents on the dollar," says Detective Cook.
Since few people are worrying about their sprinkler systems these days, it's quite likely there are other victims out there.
Cook advises people to check to make sure they haven't been hit and to report it if they have.
He'd also like everyone to be alert and report anything suspicious.
Like any victim of theft, Steve Hobbs would just like it to stop.
"If somebody needed the money, there are probably jobs to be found out there. Instead of victimizing homeowners like us, he'd be better off if he just went out and made an honest living."
Secret Witness has posted a $500 dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible.
Their number is 322-4900. Callers may remain anonymous while collecting cash rewards.