Suggestions to Secure a Valve Box from theft

Discussion in 'Irrigation / Sprinkler Forum' started by Robsteray, Jul 13, 2007.

  1. Robsteray

    Robsteray New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Howdy,

    I am on the board of a small condo HOA, and we have a wierd problem. We have a irrigation control valve box in the front of our property that is targeted by thieves for the the brass regulators underneath. Our city runs rampant with copper theft, but this is the first time I have heard of brass as a commodity for an easy buck.

    We're not able to move the box to a more secure location as a city ordinaces places it within a certain amount of feet from the city water connection.

    The thieves break into the city manhole first to cut our water, then pop the lid of our valve box, and just rip the regulator right out leaving us a flooded hole and broken pvc connections.

    It's always a few hundred dollars to fix, and sadly it knocks the water out to half the community as we have to shut the water off, or it just floods.

    Does anyone have a suggestion on securing a valve box? I have found a few "locking" Valve boxes but none are key locked, and use some sort of bolt that can be opened easily it seems.

    We're considering everything from placing a large rock over the cover, to trying to chain the regulator to a deeply driven spike, but thought we'd ask around before we do anything.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions,
    Rob
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    At my condo we have five 2½" RPZ valves. Those puppies are pricey, so we have fibreglass covers over them , secured with padlocks. There are several companies you can find on goodle who make both fiberglass, solid stainless, and wire cage boxes.
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,298
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    In addition to the locked covers, you might consider an alarm device that would activate if there was an attempt to open the cover that would alert someone in the condo complex who then could notify the police. A determined thief, if given time, can defeat almost anything. Remember, they don't care about damage they do to property to get what they want.
  4. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots Sprinkler Guy

    Messages:
    798
    Location:
    Metro NYC
    Place a steel mesh cage over the valve box and manhole cover, and place a few dobermans inside.
  5. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

    Messages:
    2,051
    Keep a large snake in there--preferably one that bites. :D
  6. Robsteray

    Robsteray New Member

    Messages:
    2
    LOL Thanks. I love the snake idea!

    I wanted to thank you all for the suggestions. It's given me some ideas on things to google for other measures.

    best wishes all,
    Rob
  7. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots Sprinkler Guy

    Messages:
    798
    Location:
    Metro NYC
    Is it possible to have a video camera pointed at the location? Is this an irrigation-only valve box you're concerned with? If so, and it were my choice, I would investigate into the possibility of getting iron-body PRVs, and maybe not having any union fittings in the valve box. If you were stuck with brass-body PRVs, you could still get rid of the unions, and use metal pipe for the inlet and outlets, and cover the inlet and outlet pipes with thick metal sleeves. That would give you something that could resist being broken with a pry bar, and also be very difficult to saw out.

    Also, some sort of microswitch could be set into the valve box, to sound an alarm when the cover is open.
  8. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

    Messages:
    1,317
    Location:
    SW Florida
    Can you electrify the lid of the valve box? :)
  9. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,298
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I hope the comment about electrifying the lid was meant as a joke. If you did electrify the lid and then some toddler came in contact with it, your condo association would belong to the parents.
  10. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

    Messages:
    1,317
    Location:
    SW Florida

    Yes it was a joke. Why no warning about poisonous snakes or dobermans?
  11. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,298
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Point made and well taken.
  12. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    They're all clearly meant as jokes, but there is a difference - the electrified lid is the only one that would land you in jail.

    Dobermans are obvious, so it isn't a "trap" for an unwary innocent. The snake is... well, I hate to say it, but it's deniable: "musta got in there, somehow..." plus, you can expect the evidence to probably crawl away.
  13. light turns on; motion sensor

    another deterrent is a big light, that turns on only when they approach. The first time it happens, they are scared in the act and you may be able to film them too. After that they will pick easier targets. You can adjust the motion sensor at first so it doesn't get triggered accidentally, then you can adjust it so it covers a little wider area.

    david
  14. divot

    divot New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Most valve boxes had a place to install a bolt. That in itself offers little protection. But you can get a five point bolt that requires a special socket for removal. This will force them to have to dig up the box. Since they are too lazy to get a job they might just skip the work and leave your valve alone.
  15. Kiril

    Kiril New Member

    Messages:
    87
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Your kidding right? Pair of channel locks takes care of that 5 point bolt with no problem.

    I say put a bunch of black widows in the box. Let them get bit by a couple of those and it will make them think twice.

    I would image someone with creative imagination could fit one of those boxes with a keyed lock.

    Or perhaps you could also rig up some type of heavy bar that runs across the lid and locked into buried concrete pillars on each side.

    Course there is no solution other than using undesirable materials that can't be defeated with a shovel and pry bar. :(
  16. Sharky

    Sharky New Member

    Messages:
    22
    A security bolt is a great idea. There are some heads that are just downright crazy. Sure you can get into them, but the key is time. Anything that takes thieves more than a few minutes to crack is just not worth it in their mind. They will just move on.

    In the school where I work they use bolts on the bathroom stalls that are called one-way security bolts. They are easy to put in, but very difficult to get out without an extremely special tool. I think it is highly unlikely that folks who need to go around stealing copper to get by will have such specialized tools (although not much surprises me at this point).

    These are similar to what I am talking about....

    http://www.hudsonfasteners.com/sec/sec_ow_ohms.htm
  17. Kiril

    Kiril New Member

    Messages:
    87
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Same problem as the 5 point. Easily defeated with channel locks or vise grips.
  18. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    These are typically a round headed bolt, like a carriage bolt, with a torx security internal pattern, torx security is the torx fitting with a nipple in the middle.

    Rancher
  19. Sharky

    Sharky New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Not true. A one way security screw has a head that is nearly flat. There is nothing to grab with the channel locks or vise grips.
  20. Old Dog

    Old Dog G.C. 22+ years(in 3 states)

    Messages:
    82
    Location:
    Hawaii
    security screws...

    Your right, there is nothing to grab onto.However,I've had to cut these off of security doors before.Takes no time at all with a battery powered sawzall...(unless case hardened steel)
    FWIW,here in Hawaii alot of people cement sections of chain into the ground by their well pumps.They wrap it around the pump body in each direction and padlock it.Pretty crude but seems to keep the "tool impaired" thieves at bay.
    Might work for your valves...
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