The City of Flint Police Department has announced investigations into water theft within the city. Police Chief James Tolbert said that there are currently over 50 active investigations into water theft in the city that have already resulted in seven arrests. Chief James Tolbert began to investigate the issue of water theft when he was made aware of the problem upon joining the Flint Police Department.
The investigation into water theft has also led to the arrest of a City Water Department employee accused of illegally turning on water for residents. Chief Tolbert noted that anyone found to be tampering with water meters and other City of Flint Utility property or found to be using stolen water will be charged with felonies. “We will continue to investigate ANYONE who is found to be involved in water theft, both inside and outside of our organization,” said Chief Tolbert.
Those arrested face charges which include Tampering with Utility Property, Public Utility Fraudulent Use, Malicious Destruction of Property (MDOP)-Utility Property and Conspiracy to Commit MDOP-Utility Property. More charges and suspects are expected as the investigation continues. Warrants for misdemeanors are being sworn out of the 67th District Court and felony warrants are being sworn out of the 7th Judicial Circuit Court. The Genesee County Sheriff’s Department and the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office will be assisting the FPD and the City Attorney’s Office throughout the investigations.
Water theft from the system is a very serious problem in the City of Flint which affects everyone who uses the system. Since the Water and Sewer Funds are enterprise funds which need to support themselves, stolen water is paid for by all law-abiding customers who pay their water bills. “When someone steals water from the system, they’re stealing from their neighbors,” said City Attorney Pete Bade.
Anyone with information on utility tampering or who suspects water theft may be occurring near them is encouraged to call Crimestoppers anonymously at 1-800-SPEAK-UP. For those who are having trouble paying their water bills, there are alternatives to stealing available. Information on the Keep the Water Flowing assistance program, a collaborative effort by the City, the United Way, the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities to provide assistance to residents with water bills can found by calling City of Flint Customer Service at 810-766-7015.