FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2014
POINT OF CONTACT: Lt Neal Griffin, 760-839-4444
On Tuesday, April 1, 2014 Escondido police officers arrested 47-year-old Michael Tracy Welton, in connection with the theft of numerous water backflow devices stolen from throughout North County. Welton, who gave a Vista address, was booked into the Vista Detention Facility on charges of grand theft, possession of burglary tools and an outstanding arrest warrant.
Detectives from Escondido, San Marcos, Vista and Oceanside continue to investigate more than forty instances of backflow-device thefts. Most of the thefts were from businesses and began during January of this year. All businesses and homes are equipped with a backflow device, which prevents water from flowing back into the municipal water supply and possibly contaminating it. The thefts caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. In many cases, businesses were forced to shut down while repairs were made.
Welton is believed to be responsible for the majority of the thefts, and investigators are working to determine if there were other persons involved along with Welton. Additional arrests are possible.
It is believed that Welton was selling the heavy brass valves to local recyclers. Escondido Police are encouraging recyclers who have accepted brass backflow devices for purchase, to contact their local law enforcement agency.
In recent years, incidents of metal theft have increased as the price that recyclers are willing to pay for certain metals have skyrocketed. As a result, local agencies have formed the San Diego Regional Metal Theft Working Group, which targets not only metal thieves but recyclers who turn a blind eye to materials that are obviously stolen.
This investigation illustrates the commitment of North County law enforcement agencies to aggressively identify and arrest involved in the theft of materials for the purpose illegal recycling. In conjunction with the Metal Theft Working Group, the Escondido Police Department is planning a series of inspections and operations in the near future to ensure recyclers in Escondido are complying with laws to discourage and prevent illegal recycling.
MICHAEL TRACY WELTON