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The Dangers of Electricity Thieves

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Electricity thieves risk their own safety and put many others at risk as well.

They shoplift power and the threat of fire or electrocution doesn't seem to deter them.

Some of the crooks do it to save money, others steal to keep police off their tail.

Every utility loses power to the work of high-energy hijackers.

Crooks will tap into their neighbors supply or they jury rig contraptions to divert power from the public lines, to their own homes. Sometimes they climb power poles, and steal electricity.

"They're endangering their own lives," said PPL Spokesman Rich Beasley. "They're endangering the lives of anyone living in the dwelling they've tampered with because, in essence, what they do is create a fire hazard."

That happened in Monroe County in February, when a home near Marshalls Creek caught fire.

Police said tenant Christopher Peters stole electricity from an electric utility line, diverting power around the meter to keep his electricity use from spiking so he could grow marijuana plants. Authorities found more than 700 pot plants at the scene.

Today, the charred building shows the home in the Poconos is just an empty shell.

A close look inside the basement window, shows charred remains of marijuana plants. Outside, not far away, sits the electric meter investigators said the suspect tried to bypass, and in doing so, cause a major house fire.

Considering all the trees in the wooded area, neighbor Susan Shotsky said she and others are lucky firefighters contained the damage to one home.

"Of course it's selfish," said Shotsky. "He wasn't thinking about anybody but himself. He wanted to grow his marijuana and that was it."

"They use crude wire," added PPL's Beasley, describing power thieves in general. "They use crude instruments. They have no regard for safety. And what they do is set up an accident waiting to happen by their sloppy procedures."

Because the potential danger is so great, PPL has a full-time staff of investigators specializing in finding electricity theft.

It's a job so dangerous investigators look like they are wearing space suits, dressing in insulated layers of clothing, to protect from dangerous currents when looking at the work of high energy hijackers.

One reason PPL is stepping up enforcement is every watt of stolen energy has to be paid for.

"And our good paying customers end up subsidizing people who steal electricity," said Beasley.

PPL asks that if you know of anyone stealing electricity, don't confront them and make a dangerous situation more dangerous. Instead, call your utility or police.