Police believe they have at last solved the mystery of the missing toilet valves.
UWM and Brookfield police teamed up Wednesday to arrest a 33-year-old Brookfield man on suspicion of stealing toilet valves from, at the least, the UWM campus and two locations in Brookfield.
But flush valves for toilets and urinals have for months been going missing from all over the metro area. Fast food restaurants, grocery stores and college campus bathrooms have been favorite targets. The automatic flushing units being stolen cost from $300 to $600 to replace, and the total value of thefts are estimated at about $30,000.
According to a Brookfield police report:
At 1:27 p.m. Wednesday, UWM called Brookfield police to ask that an officer be sent to meet them to assist with the arrest of a suspect in the theft of property from the university.
The UWM police waited and then moved in to arrest the man at his home in the 4000 block of North 135th Street.
The report noted that the man was also a suspect in two incidents of toilet valve theft in Brookfield, at an Arby's restaurant and a Pick 'n Save store. The report did not say when those thefts occurred.
At least two toilet valve thefts were reported in Wauwatosa, one on Sept. 28 from the Taco Bell at 510 N. Mayfair Rd. and another on Sept. 29 at a Cousins Subs shop at 12325 W. Burleigh St., where a urinal valve disappeared.
At the Cousins shop, the manager said he had an idea who had done the deed. He told police he had noticed a man who came in wearing a backpack, went to the restroom and never came to the counter.
That would become a theme all over the Milwaukee area — eventually leading TMJ4 newscasters to dub the man the “Backpack Bathroom Bandit" after police released video of a subject thought to be the culprit.
On Oct. 9, Greenfield Patch reported that according to a Greenfield Police Department report, an employee at the McDonald's at 4275 S. 27th St. called to say someone had stolen valves to a men's room toilet and urinal. He also told police that three other local McDonald's have had the same bathroom mechanisms taken.
And so the reports continued: On Oct. 22, another Greenfield McDonald’s and ITT Technical Institute had their flushing devices lifted. Again the McDonald's lost two valves worth $600 each, but with the cost of additional parts and labor to replace them, the total cost was estimated at $1,800.
Which paled next to ITT's loss later that day, when a thief made off with $3,148 worth of flusher parts.
Greenfield Assistant Police Chief Paul Schlecht said then, “We are currently meeting with other agencies that have also experienced these thefts, most notably West Allis and Pewaukee."
By Dec. 14, the Greenfield police, compiling reports from the area, ticked off businesses and campuses there and in Brookfield, Wauwatosa, Pewaukee, Milwaukee and West Allis. They estimated that in at least 20 bathrooms had been hit and $30,000 worth of valves stolen.