Utility Managers Warn Thieves About Tampering Hazards - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

June 21, 2004 -- Kathy Morris Reports

Utility Managers Warn Thieves About Tampering Hazards

JUNE 21, 2004 -- Posted at: 10:30pm CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- There are a few thieves out there hoping to find a free way to keep their homes at a comfortable temperature. Power suppliers are warning you, tampering with electrical meters can be deadly.

"Even 120 volts can kill you, so it's a very hazardous situation to be in," said Brian Duncan.

Around 10 residents a year are taking a chance, and illegally tapping into Craighead Electric Cooperative's lines by tampering with meters at their homes.

Duncan added, "It's almost like people will start talking among themselves, and saying, 'Hey, you know, you can do this and get by with it,' and so we'll usually find... we'll find one, we'll usually find 3 or 4 in the area."

However, it isn't long before their caught. Meters are read on a monthly basis, and a computer system can detect drastic increases and decreases in usage numbers. Here's an alternative: if you need help, ask for it.

"They can call the office and ask for an extension, and we work with them," explained Duncan.

If you've worked with your electrical provider, and you still can't afford to pay your bill, there are other organizations that can help. Crowley's Ridge Development Council has two energy assistance programs each year. One ended March 31st. The Crisis Program is underway, and will end when funds are gone.

Jackie Burns, C.R.D.C. Emergency Services Manager explained about the current program, 'We will pay up to 300 dollars, and for this program they must have a shut off notice, or already be disconnected."

Residents can receive help from each program one time per year.

"We have those that are elderly that are on fixed incomes, and then we have those that are just down on their luck."

Brian Duncan refers some customers to CRDC; hoping they won't resort to drastic measures. Some of their customers have been arrested, and can be charged with felony theft of services. As for being a fire hazard, Jonesboro Fire Chief Butch Herring can only think of a few times in the last 10 or so years that a fire has started, because of complications from someone stealing electricity.

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