1. ITV Report

Thames Water recruits team of detectives after sharp rise in water theft

Thames Water has recruited a team of detectives after the number of unauthorised connections to their network increased twentyfold.

Thames Water brought in the super-sleuths after the number of cases involving water theft rocketed from 33 in 2011 to 734 in 2017.

Led by a former police detective, the team of investigators are patrolling London and the Thames Valley to find and, if necessary, prosecute.

We're not out to get people, but it's against the law to dig up the road, find our water mains and illegally connect to our network.

Thousands of litres of drinking water are lost every day.

Therefore, to help protect water supplies for future generations and gain a greater control of our network, it's vitally important we find and stop the people doing this.

I would encourage anyone who thinks there might be suspicious water usage taking place near them to join this fight against water crime and contact us immediately.

– Stuart Orchard, investigator

Last month, cleaning firm Hydro Cleansing pleaded guilty to 18 offences in Croydon and Reading under the Water Industry Act 1991 after illegally connecting standpipes to the network.

They were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling almost £15,000.

The team took another company, Kilgannon Street Care, to court in September after they were seen connecting an unlicensed standpipe to a fire hydrant in Battersea, south west London, and using thousands of litres to clean the streets.

The firm's director admitted 12 offences under the WIA and was ordered to pay more than £5,000 in fines and costs.

Investigator Claire Rumens, formerly of Kent Police CID, added:

People should follow the correct procedures, not strike cash-in-hand deals with rogue traders.

If we're notified of an illegal connection or any illegal activity, we will investigate and potentially go in and disconnect the supply.

We try to work with our customers to put things right, and show them how it should be done.

But if they continue to abuse the network we do have the power to prosecute, and we will.

– Claire Rumens, investigator