Electricity thefts on the rise

By Lindsey Connell - bio | e-mail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Utility companies say they're seeing a surge in electricity theft.

Georgia Power reported $1,000,000 worth of stolen power last year and the number of investigations is on the rise for 2009.

"We can see the amount of electrical theft orders have come through and investigations have increased this year," said Lamar Hemmings, a Revenue Protection Investigator for Georgia Power.

And officials say electricity theft is happening everywhere.

"Electricity theft is not just relegated to the lower income area. We see it in middle income, higher income and commercial. You'd be surprised to know the different places that I go where people use electricity illegally," added Hemmings.

Flint Energies supplies power to 4,000 people in our area and while the company isn't dealing with customers stealing services, officials say they're dealing with another type of theft.

"We've had wire stolen off our trucks while they've been parked. We've had wire stolen from our offices. We've actually had wire stolen off our poles which is extremely dangerous. The price of wire, the metals in the wires, have gone up in the recycling companies marketplace and we've actually had to build an alliance with local recycling companies who are helping to identify when people come in and try to see wire to find out if it's been stolen from Flint," said Jimmy Autry, Senior Vice President of Member and Community Relations for Flint.

Bottom line--messing with power could have culprits facing prosecution or much worse.

"It is dangerous. People have been electrocuted doing this," said Hemmings.

Officials with Flint Energies and Alabama Power say they've also seen a dramatic increase in the number of folks who need to make payment arrangements for their account.

If you think you're a victim of electricity theft, you can call Georgia Power to report it at 1-888-660-5890 and ask for Revenue Protection.