BATON ROUGE- It's a problem that you may not have heard about, but power companies like Entergy and Demco are having to fight thieves stealing meters from customers.
It's a way for them to get free electricity if they hook up your meter to a house that has the electricity turned off.
Currently, Entergy and Demco both use what's called a smart meter. It links up to your home's electrical box, and meter readers can tell if the wrong one is plugged in.
According to Entergy, over the past year, they've investigated 40 cases of stolen electrical meters in the Baton Rouge area. This year alone, there have been 16 cases.
"It's a consistent issue we face on a regular basis, daily weekly and monthly," Entergy's Greg Guilbeau said.
Demco says they see about three stolen meters per year in the areas they serve. According to Demco, meter tampering is a serious business. The Public Service Commission has given power companies the green light to assess a fee for meter tampering and power theft. They can estimate the usage and bill the entire amount for the stolen power.
"We have meter readers that are in the community everyday," Guilbeau said. "They visit a location each and every location. If they see something that looks improper, they will report that and we'll do an investigation."
Around town, some people in the community were familiar and have heard about what thieves are doing.
"It's a dangerous proposition, especially if you're messing with electrical wires and voltage," Eugene Hardin said. "But you'll hear about them. You'll hear about them if they get electrocuted."
Some neighbors were in shock about it and couldn't believe thieves had now stooped to a new low.
"Get a job," Julius Stewart said. "Get a job. It's totally wrong and illegal. Eventually what you do in the dark will come to light."
"There's always some sort of a hustle," Miguel Hernandez said. "You can cut grass, you can work at Mcdonalds, Burger King, there's always something you can be doing better than stealing an electric meter."
Entergy and Demco urge customers if their power goes out and the weather isn't bad to check to make sure the meter is still attached to their house. If it has been stolen, you need to call them immediately.
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