Every May, we celebrate Electrical Safety Month. It’s a time when we shine a spotlight on ways we keep members safe.
This year we are focusing on electricity theft. Every year, electric cooperatives across the country cope with thieves—folks who deliberately tamper with their electric meter to steal power. Not only is this practice extremely dangerous, it’s a serious crime that may result in hefty fines and jail time.
Clark County REMC has recently experience an increase in the number of cases of meter theft, where consumers interfered with the operation of a meter to lower or avoid paying electric bills.
“We’ve seen people do some dangerous things—using knives, forks, magnets, jumper cables, and any number of other objects to get around paying for the power they use,” explains Jamie Carver, Credit and Collections Specialist for Clark County REMC. “Not only are these people stealing from their fellow co-op members, they’re also risking their lives and those of our workers.”
According to the Cooperative Research Network, a division of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, power surging through a compromised meter can cause an electrical catastrophe. A short circuit could produce an arc flash bright enough to cause blindness and powerful enough to launch fragments of shrapnel-like, red-hot debris. Serious injury or death from electrocution, explosion, or fire often results from meter tampering. Only trained Clark County REMC personnel wearing protective clothing should work on meters.
“Anytime you get into a meter base, you run a risk,” comments Carver. “With an arc flash, somebody could get killed or seriously maimed.”
Electricity theft is not a victimless crime. Your not-for-profit Clark County REMC loses revenue and spends resources to investigate tampering. These costs are then passed on to the entire membership. National estimates vary, but The Washington Post cited revenue protection officials who claim between $1 billion and $10 billion worth of electricity is stolen from utilities annually.
Since everyone pays for lost power, please let us know if you suspect meter tampering. Call Clark County REMC at 812-246-3316 to report possible theft of service. All information can be given anonymously.