The rising cost of energy and gas is forcing some people to resort to desperate measures to stay cool this summer. They're stealing electric meters from unsuspecting homeowners.
TXU Electric Delivery District Manager, Bob Brown, said, "Electricity is a dangerous product and so someone disconnects a meter from the house, that is taking it from the source - the wire side of the business - and their side. When they do that, it depends on what the load is in the house, but it can be very devastating."
It can also be fatal. Anyone who steals an electrical meter can be electrocuted. Stealing a meter is also against the law and it usually doesn't take long for the electric company to catch a crook.
"They will move it from their house to another house or they'll find a vacant house and just borrow that meter. The next time there is a cycle, it is found and it is tracked back to the original owner."
Meter thieves are reported to authorities and to corporate security within the electric company. If the thief is also a customer, it is reflected on their credit. The customer may even face charges.
"Because of the price of electricity and with deregulation, people cannot get registered to get electricity at their home, and so their frustration factor has grown into this," Brown said. "In the last 12 months, we have seen an increase [in meter theft]."
Electric companies usually find out about stolen meters through neighbors who call and report it. Disconnected meters are always thoroughly checked to make sure they will register correctly once they're reinstalled.