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People risk death to steal power

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Electricity theft is a growing problem and people who do it risk their lives. Albany Water Gas and Light investigators say more people are stealing power by reconnecting the lines in their meter box so that the electricity flows back into their house. 

Investigators warn this crime could be deadly.

Albany Water Gas and Light investigator Larry Davis says his office is staying much busier lately with an increased load of meter tampering cases. And it scares him.

"I'm amazed we don't find dead bodies underneath meter cans from being electrocuted. I really am," Davis said.

Davis said he knows the economy has many people struggling to get by and power theft could increase.

"A lot of folks seem to be out of work, lots of hours cut back at work, so there may be the possibility of it increasing," Davis said.

Even with 120 volts flowing through the power lines, Davis says people who don't know what they are doing try to put jumpers to hook up the conductors or jury rig the meter itself.

"I've seen hole in the side of the meter cans where they tried to plug them in sideways and electricity came out the side and blew a hole in the meter can. So you came imagine what that would do to a human being," he said.

Davis said they are also seeing more professional tamperers, people you can pay to get your power turned on.

"They'll turn your meter on for you. They'll bring a meter if you need a meter. We're seeing a few more stolen meters to try and keep their bills down. And that kind of stuff."

But power theft often leads to fires. And if you are caught, you will have to pay back the power company for the electricity taken and a court fine as well.

Albany Water Gas and Light says people having trouble paying their bills would do better talking with them about assistance rather than steal power, which literally could cost you your life. 

Tampering with a meter is a misdemeanor with a set fine of $350, but most power thieves also have to repay WG&L for the electricity taken and perform community service.

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