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Police search for vandals after break-in at Park City water facility

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Nov 4th, 2013 @ 6:36pm

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PARK CITY — Park City Police are increasing patrols and looking for suspects following a break-in at a remote water facility in the mountains above town.

"We haven't at this point determined that there is anything more than, it looks like, some type of vandalism," Capt. Phil Kirk said Monday. "There wasn't any sabotage of the facility."

Police responded to the report of the break-in at the Judge Tunnel on Oct. 15.

The break-in was detected during a regular inspection of the site, according to city officials. It was unclear when the breach itself actually occurred.

Kirk said detectives recovered some evidence from the break-in, but declined to disclose what the evidence was, citing the ongoing investigation.

"A lot can go wrong when you're back there, so it was a pretty foolish move, whoever did it," Park City water manager Clint McAffee said.

McAffee said not only is a break-in at a water facility a federal crime, the way it was done was potentially dangerous.

The vandals, McAffee said, dug about a foot down into the ground, and broke through the wood that made up the roof of the tunnel. It appeared a rope was used to drop down inside.

"The worst thing that could happen is it could collapse, and you could be trapped in the tunnel or under the collapse," McAffee said. "It could easily become fatal."

Park City Police are asking anybody with information about the break- in to call them at 435-615-5500 or anonymously at 435-615-5847.

Kirk said officers were upping patrols. McAffee said several security countermeasures including motion sensors were already in place, as they are at other city water facilities.

The city had not used water from the Judge Tunnel since June because of water quality issues. The threat of a potential attack or the tampering of a city or county's water source is something that has been a concern to water managers for years.

Mountain Regional Water District manages water in other areas of Summit County outside of Park City.

Chief technical officer Doug Evans said the district increased security during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and updated its system again this year.

"It's always a risk in this type of industry," Evans said. "I have to admit - it is a risk."

The utility hasn't had a break-in at one of its facilities since 2000. Kirk characterized water facility break-ins as "very rare," though vandalism was more common.

Evans said all of Mountain Regional's facilities have motion detectors in place, and the sites are monitored remotely at the company's office or from workers' homes.

Pump stations and larger facilities, Evans said, have contracted private security doing regular patrols. Facilities are not well-marked in hopes of keeping them from becoming targets.

"We keep fairly secret where a lot of things are and we try to make things blend in as much as possible," Evans said.

Park City Police are asking anybody with information about the break-in at the Judge Tunnel to call them at 435-615-5500 or anonymously at 435-615-5847.


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