Newfound Clues

Electricity theft buzzes under the radar

Even with home utility installation and service, it seems you’ve got to watch your back now. Police of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (that’s in Canada) are amidst an ongoing investigation regarding the potential theft of electrical services. Thieves may be siphoning the electricity right from people’s meters.

The device(s) in question are digital electric power meters—very common in household electricity delivery. The most recent, red flaggish, lead stems from Newfoundland’s capital and largest city; St. John’s.

The RNC received a complaint around 11 a.m. this Monday that a St. John’s residence had previously been disconnected from electrical services. Utility employees then discovered that the electrical apparatus had been tampered with. A bypass device was reportedly placed in the empty meter box that allowed access to unmetered power. The bypass device was removed by utility employees and passed over to the RNC as evidence. It is now being examined by the RNC Forensic Identification Services in an attempt to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators.

Power theft is so rampant in India that there are countless homemade videos, such as the one above, advising on how to identify and prevent it.

Electricity theft isn’t at all rare—it’s especially problematic abroad—but addressing it and assessing the damage is easier said than done. Oftentimes, utility workers will be the ones to come across tampering, but have no means of tracing it. So prevention has become the most proficient route, as evidenced by a recent call for action in Alabama. Alexander City, Ala., councilman Tony Goss is reportedly working on instituting a new policy for both electrical and water thefts in his region. Goss said a graduated fine program where first-time infractions would cost the perpetrator up to $1,000 is working elsewhere. Fines would go up incrementally with repeat offenders. The councilman told Mitch Sneed of alexcityOutlook.com that he’s heard or seen “everything from people using screwdrivers to bypass meters, stolen meters from other areas illegally installed and people running extension cords from a business several hundred feet away,” in a September 10 report.

As much as $6 billion worth of electricity is stolen annually, according to various estimates. Between one-half and 2 percent of electricity in the U.S. is lost to theft, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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