Police: Thieves targeting water-bottle machines along Highway 99

Livingston police are seeking the public’s help to identify those responsible for a series of break-ins along Highway 99 involving water-bottle machines.

Since Sept. 12, police have taken five reports of thefts involving the machines along Highway 99, but Chief Ruben Chavez said investigators believe the problem is much larger across the region.

“Between Modesto and Fresno, (the company) is reporting more than 100 cases of people breaking into the machines for the cash boxes,” Chavez said.

Police said all of the cases have been reported since early September.

Chavez said thieves are attacking the machines at night and appear to be familiar with how the machines operate. “They know exactly where the cash box is and they know exactly what they’re looking for,” the police chief said.

It was unclear exactly how many machines have been targeted or how much money may have been stolen, but officers described it as a “trend” in many areas of Northern California.

“We’re encouraging people to be vigilant, reporting suspicious people or suspicious vehicles in the area, especially at night,” Chavez said. “If there’s an opportunity to put up a surveillance camera, that would also help us obtain the information we’re looking for.”