Bathroom bandit: Toilet parts disappearing from restaurants

WOODLAND, Wash. - Someone is targeting restaurant bathrooms and stealing toilet parts, and the victims believe whoever is doing it knows a thing or two about plumbing.

Police say they think the thieves might be stealing the parts for scrap metal but they can't be sure.

On Sunday night, manager Alicia Leyva was counting tills when "Alex, one of our employees, comes in and says, (with a) really dumbfounded look on his face, and goes, 'I think someone stole our urinal,'" she said.

More specifically, it was the pipe and flush valve at the top. The thief hit other restaurants too: A McDonald's and Muchas Gracias in Longview and another McDonald's in Woodland along with the Dairy Queen.

Employees at the Dairy Queen believe whoever walked into the bathroom and stole the parts knew what they were doing, because tools are needed to take the parts off. Additionally, the thief was careful not to leave a mess behind.

"It had to be a professional because there was no water on the floor," Leyva said. "There was none. You would think the water would have went everywhere."

Plumbing salesman Barry Eichler agreed.

"You've gotta shut off the water; you've gotta have a large wrench to take them apart, because once you take these off of a plumbing fixture, you're going to have water really flowing," he said.

The thief avoided that. And just as quickly as the parts were taken, they were replaced by restaurant owners.

"I don't think he believed me at first," she said. "I think he thought - I don't know what he thought - maybe I was joking or something."

Each one of those fixtures sells for between $100 and $200 on average. Police said anyone trying to sell them for scrap metal wouldn't get anywhere near the purchase price, but they couldn't name a specific amount.