Hereford, TX- Hereford city officials are on the lookout as water thefts climb in the area.
Within the last few weeks Hereford Police have responded to four reports of service thefts after Hereford city workers realized water was being used at homes whose service had been turned off.
"Often times we will investigate that and find that the lock has been cut and the homeowner is stealing water, or the meter has been removed, and they have put a pipe in to bypass the meter and get water that way," said Hereford City Manager Rick Hanna.
Hanna says the theft doesn't necessarily impact the city but it could mean higher costs for the entire community.
"It's a zero tolerance type protocol that we have and that's our procedure, if you get caught stealing, you are going to be filed on and you are going to be fined," added Hanna.
"They can be find anywhere from 200 to 500 dollars if you go with the state charge, for example if the water theft is over 20 dollars to 200, if it is up to over 15 hundred, they could be facing jail time and a fine or both, if it is a felony, they could be looking at state jail or penitentiary time," added Hereford Chief of Police Brent Harrison.
In most cases, officials say the thieves are taking the water through broken meters and even through hoses hooked up to a different home.
Hanna warns in the end the effort to steal the water and the cost of punishment aren't worth it.
"A late fee, a reconnect fee, and then the penalty for the court and then the court costs, so it is a whole lot cheaper just to pay the water and go on instead of trying to steal it," said Hanna.
City workers and police say they will continue to monitor for these thefts and will continue to fine and even arrest those who are caught.