The City of Toledo is taking new steps to try to make sure everyone who is getting water from the city is paying for the service.
The city's new efforts include hiring a former Toledo police detective to track down property owners who are trying to avoid paying their bills, in order to build up a case for the city to take them to court.
On a daily basis, the city sends utility crews to check water lines at addresses where service has been shut off due to non-payment. Last month, "water theft prevention" efforts were boosted by hiring retired Toledo police officer Harold Mosley on a part-time basis.
"We hired a water theft investigator. When we find these situations, we're going to go after them criminally. We have an investigator now that will follow up on them and file in Toledo Municipal Court," explained Dave Welch, Toledo Public Utilities director.
According to Welch, even though the city collects roughly 98 percent of what is owed, it has more than $6 million worth of bills between 30 and 120 days late.
"As we try to make sure we collect the money that's owed to the utility (so we're fair to all of our rate payers), we find that there are folks that continually will try to steal our water," said Welch.
Welch believes the extra expense will bring a significant return on investment for the city, as well as put would-be water thieves on notice.
"If you're going to continually steal water and we can prove to the courts, we're going to go after you," said Welch. "Not only hiring a water theft investigator, we're also more aggressive on shut-offs to keep people from being too far out with their bill."
Welch stresses the city does want to help anyone making a good-faith effort to pay.
"We work with people all the time putting them on monthly-payment plans to help them manage it easier," said Welch.