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Evarts water theft crackdown continues

The Evarts City Council discussed progress on the issue of water theft from the city’s system during a recent meeting.

Mayor Eddie Manning brought the topic up to the panel.

“How many have been caught stealing this month?” Manning asked city clerk Kristi Lamb.

Lamb replied five individuals had been caught in one week.

“It’s still going on, and we’re still catching them,” Manning said.

The city has been cracking down on water theft for approximately two months, with the subject first being addressed in June’s council meeting.

According to Manning, offenders are caught in a variety of ways.

“When we catch them, we shut the (water) off,” Manning said during the June meeting. “Our guy’s catch it reading meters…Sometimes it’s a fluke. Sometimes we catch it by phone calls, a neighbor will complain.”

Manning again addressed the problem during the council’s July meeting, saying the city has been patient with incidents of water theft over the years.

“Once we caught them stealing, the first thing we’ve always done is give them the option to come in and pay for the damage they did and the water they stole,” Manning said. “That’s caused us more headaches than just having them arrested. Because then, they have to pay and they’re mad. I’m to the point now where I think we should just start having them arrested, because stealing is stealing.”

The city then implemented a policy of obtaining an arrest warrant when someone is found to be stealing water.

During the Sept. 19 meeting, the council was brought up to speed on a few of the cases.

“We’ve got three trailers at Highsplint,” Lamb explained. “At one, the loop (a piece of city water equipment) is so damaged that I refused to turn it on until somebody pays for it…the other two claim they thought it was on a well. So, basically we don’t know how much water they used but none of them have come to have the water turned back on.”

Manning pointed out the city is still catching offenders.

“We’re catching them, a little bit at a time,” Manning said. “If you catch one, then they start getting suspicious of each other and they turn in their buddies.”

Manning stated the majority of theft is going on outside the city limits.

“We’ve got 40 percent water loss,” Manning pointed out. “Is all that leaks? No.”