Dumas, TX - Vandals are targeting the covers on automated gas meters in alleys across Dumas. City officials say although this has been a problem in the past, they've really seen an increase this Summer.
At first it was 60, but now the city is up to 80 gas meter covers that have been vandalized.
"By either baseball bat, just kicking them off, picking up sticks and rocks or whatever is available in the alleyways," said Dumas Chief of Police Jim Nelson.
This senseless crime has affected the city in several ways including their budget.
"We're looking at the cost of just replacing those is $90 a piece for the unit, then of course the labor it takes to replace it," said Dumas City Manager Arbie Taylor.
Replacing an automated cover could take up to 90 days. Taylor says the city is now dealing with over $5,000 in damage, which is money residents are ultimately paying.
Along with money being a problem, the vandalism makes meter reading more difficult.
"He only has to drive down the alley and receive those readings. Now, he'll have to stop at each one of those meters and put a cord into the meter itself and read it," said Taylor.
Most of the crime is happening on the North side of town, in between Dumas Avenue and Porter Street. Nelson thinks juveniles are responsible and the punishment can range anywhere from just a fine, to actual jail time.
"It's starts off with a Class C Misdemeanor which is Criminal Mischief under $50. $50 to $500 bumps it up to a Class B. $500 to $1500 becomes a Class A and then over $1500 is a felony," said Nelson.
Nelson has beefed up patrol in the neighborhood alleys and has put up cameras to try to find the vandals. While police are doing their part, Taylor just wants it to stop.
"I don't care if we never catch whose doing this, as long as they stop doing it and we can get this behind us," said Taylor.