The city of Bellmead is on the lookout for residents stealing water from their neighbors after receiving several complaints in recent months of water theft worth thousands of dollars.

“What we are having is citizens subsidizing other residents, and our goal is that you don’t have to pay for more water than what you use,” Interim Bellmead City Manager Yost Zakhary said. “That is just being financially irresponsible.”

Residents have reported neighbors stealing water from their homes using hoses, or bypassing city meters entirely.

“There are a lot of reasons this is a problem,” Interim Bellmead Police Chief Danny Smith said. “One thing, they are stealing from your neighbor, and another problem is that there is a fee you pay to have water to your home, and by stealing water, you are also stealing from the city.”

On Oct. 11, Tonya Anne Morrow, 43, was arrested on a Class A misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief after she was accused of stealing her neighbor’s water in the 700 block of Roy Beatty Lane. Police reported Morrow was diverting water from her neighbor’s home by using two water hoses to get water into an open window in her home.

City workers discovered Morrow had not had an active water account since February 2018. She was booked into McLennan County Jail on the misdemeanor before she posted a $3,000 bond and was released from custody.

While some residents steal water by running a hose to a neighbor’s outdoor faucet, others have been caught either illegally bypassing the city meters so water usage is not calculated, city officials said. Zakhary said each of the complaints are investigated.

“Water is relatively inexpensive, but when you do it for months and months, it adds up,” he said. “When people in the city are already on a fixed income, $30 or $40 a month makes a big difference.”

The increased enforcement effort was spurred by neighbor complaints, Zakhary said.

“We are getting more complaints and more citizen feedback,” he said. “People do call and say they are afraid to report it, so we are taking an active stance to stop these kinds of thefts.”

Employees with the city check between 100 to 200 meters a day and look for tampered meters or illegal hookups. Zakhary said the city will be more vigilant in finding such violations.

Anyone with concerns about water thefts or usage is asked to contact Bellmead City Hall at 799-2436.

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Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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