By CLINT FOSTER
The Mineral Wells Police Department arrested a local man last week with a warrant for criminal mischief impairment/interruption of a public service after he allegedly tampered with his water meter back in October.
Thirty-five-year-old Christopher N. Russell became the latest casualty in the City of Mineral Wells' concerted effort to crack down on utility theft, especially water, when the MWPD showed up at his home in the 1400 block of SE 8th Street on the afternoon of Dec. 31.
The warrant and subsequent arrest stemmed from an incident on Oct. 21 when police rolled on this same residence in regards to a water theft complaint.
According to the MWPD case narrative, at that time police met with a member of the Mineral Wells Water Department who was reading the water meter, as part of a routine inspection, and found that it showed zero consumption. Police said under the meter cover, the Water Department found that the water meter had been disconnected and was laying loose inside with a different meter of unknown origin in its place. Although it was not connected to the pipe, police said the City's meter was still connected to the electronic monitoring system, which allowed it to be read.
Both meters were removed and replaced with a new one and police began an investigation to find out who tampered with it in the first place – as the only resident home knew nothing about it.
The Index has reported on water thefts before. In another incident in October, MWPD assisted the City's Code Enforcement and Inspections Department with a particularly creative water theft. At this particular property, when they removed the utility access cover, police discovered unknown subjects had manufactured a water-tap bypass of sorts connecting the city’s main line to the feed line that went inside the house. It was a rigged combination of duct tape, two faucet heads and various other pipes and, even, welding.