BERKELEY — Those needing to use a bathroom on the UC Berkeley campus may find themselves having to hold it, thanks to a rash of thievery striking the campus plumbing.

Burglars have been bringing tools into bathrooms at buildings across the campus and removing brass flushing hardware from the toilets, effectively dismantling more than three dozen commodes to date, campus police Chief Mitch Celaya said Monday.

"We've put out crime alert to make people aware of it," Capt. Margo Bennett said. "But because of the seclusion in the bathrooms, it's hard to expect eyewitnesses. So we're asking people to just be aware. If you see people walking around with bags that look like they may be carrying tools or parts, give us a call. We're hoping to pick up some sightings of suspicious people in the area."

Each stolen part costs the school more than $250 to replace, Bennett said, which would place the cost thus far at more than $9,000.

The criminals' motivation, she added, is to sell the brass parts as scrap or to other kinds of metal dealers.

"These kinds of thieves tend to go to construction sites or locations where these materials are loosely lying around, or closed off buildings no longer in use," Bennett said. "They take parts without being seen. Most of what we've had are usually at night when buildings are closed or less occupied."

The thieving leaves the toilets unusable, Bennett said.

"You have to cut the water off," she said. "Once the piece is out, you can't turn the water back on without flooding the bathroom."

Anyone with information that could help the investigation is asked to call 510-642-0472 during normal business hours or 510-642-6760 at any other time.