EXCLUSIVE: More than 150 people charged with stealing water

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ATLANTA - A prior version of this story identified former Atlanta Watershed employee, Jerel Harris, who Atlanta city officials had said lived in south Fulton County and was engaged in the theft.  A city spokesman told Channel 2 they made an error.  They now confirm Harris was not the homeowner and was not involved in the theft, and they gave us the wrong name and the wrong picture.  The story below has been updated.

 


A total of 160 people are facing charges for stealing water.
 
Channel 2 Action News had exclusive access as police arrested alleged violators.
 
Watershed Management Investigators told us they were tracking offenders in the city of Atlanta and south Fulton County.
 
Watershed Investigations Manager Keisha Dixon said they purpose people to ensure everyone pays for water, "It's not fair, for them, for their next door neighbor to get water for free."
 
Dixon told Channel 2 investigative reporter Erica Byfield first-time offenders receive a door knocker alerting them to the theft, and repeat offenders are arrested.
 
During the round up police arrested four people. Two of those people, who at live separate addresses, are accused of never paying for water.
 
Byfield attempted to talk to Antoinette Baker as police led her away; she did not respond.
 
In all, Investigators made six stops; each one ended with workers removing a water meter, or the device someone installed to steal water.
 
Officials told Byfield they have caught one south Fulton County Resident stealing water five times in the last seven months.
 
Leaders sent a caravan of Atlanta Watershed workers to his Flagstone Place home. 
 
"We pulled the meter, came back, they had a stolen meter in the box," Dixon said.
 
This time, they found a pipe they believe the homeowner rigged.
 
Crews dug it up and the pipe that leads to the home.
 
Watershed leaders told Channel 2 Action News a former Watershed employee, Jerel Harris, owns the home.
 
He was not home while the crews removed the pipe. Dixon said when they find him the police will arrest him.
 
Most of the active water theft cases are currently being heard by judges in Atlanta Municipal Court or the Fulton County Court system.
 
Thomas Moses faced theft charges in court.  He pleaded nolo. A judge put him on probation for six months and instructed him to pay a $1,000 fine.
 
The judge added if Moses signed up for a program to repay what he owes she would wave the fine.