Power thieves are costing you big - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Power thieves are costing you big

When the weather turns cold, hundreds of Mid-Southerners turn to stealing electricity to keep warm, and it's costing MLGW rate-payers millions.

Fire investigators said meter tampering caused a house fire that sent two Memphis family members to the hospital Thursday. In fact, according to MLGW, power theft is more common than you think.

"When people steal electricity, it costs more to run MLGW. "It is a problem and MLGW is aware of the problem," said Kent Welch, MLGW Revenue Protection Director.

Thursday, one family paid in more ways than one. Memphis Fire Department investigators said someone was stealing power from a home on South Orleans. A voltage spike sparked a fire and sent two family members to the hospital.

"We're trying to determine who actually tampered with the meter box. From that point, the investigators will be able to determine if charges will be filed," explained Lieutenant Keith Staples of the Memphis Fire Department.

MLGW has a Revenue Protection Department with investigators who handle more than a thousand power theft cases a year. More than half of those cases end in charges. The good news is MLGW collects about two million dollars a year from power thieves.

"The fact that MLGW does recover this lost revenue, it lessens the cost for all of us," Welch added.

Power theft is not only taxing on all customers. According to Staples, it is a public danger.

"Extremely dangerous. It can be hazardous to the residents, to would-be technicians or licensed electricians," he said.  Lt. Staples encourages you to keep a close eye on your meter to keep damage like this from happening to you.

If you suspect someone could be stealing power from you or someone you know, call Revenue Protection at (901) 321-6969. 

"MLGW's Revenue Protection Department is charged with the duty of ensuring MLGW services are not being stolen or misused. We appreciate any tips that will help our Revenue Protection personnel stop these illegal activities, and will keep any tips that are received anonymous. Just provide us with the address that is involved with the stolen utilities, and we will investigate. Please e-mail us at revenueprotection@mlgw.org with any information that may assist us in stopping utility theft," said Public Relations Supervisor Glen Thomas.

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