CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - It's a crime that poses a major threat to car wash customers. Thieves take the metal drainage grates, leaving holes in their place.
One local business was hit for the tenth time Wednesday night and its owner is fed up.
"It's more work than it looks, just keeping them clean, just keeping them functioning properly," said Max Falk, who has been in the car wash business since 1982.
Thieves add to Falk's headaches. He runs nearly a dozen self serve car washes across Hamilton County.
"My helper came by this morning and they were all gone," said Falk.
They swiped every metal grate from Falk's car wash on Ashland Terrace Wednesday night. He says it's a growing trend in Chattanooga.
The 40-pound drains are worth just a few bucks in scrap metal, but thieves try to cash in at local yards.
"You don't make a million dollars with these things," said Falk, referring to the car wash, "and then little things like this come along and cost you money."
It will cost about $130 dollars to replace them, but Falk says he'll opt for wooden planks instead. He knows from experience, thieves will return.
"I'd say we've probably had at least 10 incidents of it over the years," said Falk.
Channel 3 was there in 2008 when Falk was first hit. The thieves, who stole grates from his Red Bank location, were later caught on camera at another business doing the same thing.
Now the majority of his car washes have wooden planks where metal grates used to be.
"They either have wood, or they have a chain welded to them and anchored in the pit, so they'll have to work on them for a while," said Falk, smiling at the thought of making the job harder for metal thieves.
Falk says this time there are no pictures or leads. The added cost of security cameras isn't one he can afford, so he's hoping an eyewitness will come forward.
"We wish people, if they see something happening, at least get a tag number and report it," said Falk, "it would help us, it helps everybody out."
Falk filed a report with the Chattanooga Police Department and contacted all the local scrap metal businesses to alert them to the theft. If you have information that could help, contact CPD.