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Bedford vandals all wet

A judge should have no difficulty deciding on a course of punishment for the individual or individuals responsible for vandalism to four fire hydrants in the Bedford area that resulted in a loss of 150,000 gallons of water.

Of course, that observation is built upon the premise that all allegedly responsible will be apprehended and that guilt will be proven, either through court proceedings or by way of guilty pleas.

Three of the vandalized hydrants are located in Bedford Borough and one is in Bedford Township.

According to Bedford Borough Police Chief Craig Bowman, the incidents currently are being investigated “as basically a theft,” but he added that the district attorney will be consulted about ascertaining the full range of charges applicable, if arrests are forthcoming.

The incidents affected not only the hydrants; some customers’ water ended up cloudy, while some customers experienced decreased water pressure.

More serious than that, the vandalism could have made fire department response to an emergency call difficult, possibly resulting in serious damage or someone’s injury or death.

The trouble with vandals is that many can’t think beyond the tip of their nose; what they consider fun or hilarious can turn out deadly.

Such a horrible outcome could be a basis for homicide or manslaughter charges, plus numerous others, and authorities try initially to file all charges that seem relevant to what has occurred.

If and when this case gets before a judge, the judge’s options will be many. The most obvious penalty is that the vandal or vandals should be made to pay for the lost water, on the basis of current per-gallon rates.

Meanwhile, if and when the case goes to court, officials of the Bedford Borough Municipal Authority, which provides water service to homes and businesses in the borough and parts of Bedford Township, should bring with them a full report of the other costs associated with the vandalism.

Cost figures should be available for workers’ wages; hydrant damage; hydrant components, if any were lost or stolen; and any costs tied to police officer response.

While police were dealing with this case, normal patrol routines no doubt were interrupted, opening the potential for other incidents, minor or otherwise.

This case also seems ripe for a heavy dose of community service, including a stint with municipal authority crews as they handle their everyday responsibilities, as well as any unanticipated developments.

Such situations smack of immaturity, and the question exists as to whether the incident will have to be handled by the juvenile court, with the vandal or vandals’ identity protected because of age — although, in a community the size of Bedford, it oftentimes is difficult for an identity to remain secret.

Whatever the motive for the crimes, the vandals did not ponder the “big picture.”

They didn’t reflect on how many people could be impacted negatively, and whether some might have health issues requiring the existence of a dependable water supply.

If an arrest or arrests are forthcoming, the court’s obligation will be to make those impacts clear to the defendants.

Beyond all of that, a hefty “water bill” should be hand-delivered.

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