Dangerous Power Thefts Noted by Lamar Utility Board


Jury Rigged and Dangerous Electric Meter

Lamar Light Plant Superintendent, Houssin Hourieh, informed the utility board members of two instances of power theft during their September 12th meeting.  The Lamar Police Department noted the instances in their recent daily report:

9/11/2017 12:00:00 AM  10:29     1704782                SANGER, STEVE                Officer took a report of parties using stolen electricity in the 100 block of S 12th Street. Under investigation.
9/11/2017 12:00:00 AM  10:56     1704783                SANGER, STEVE                Officer took a report of a City of Lamar electrical meter taken from the 500 Block of N 6th Street. Under investigation.

Meter with Illegal and Dangerous By-Pass Connections

Hourieh pointed out that while the theft of property and electricity is illegal, the procedure is also extremely dangerous. “We don’t know where the stolen meter is, but the people who lived there called us to report an outage,” he explained, adding, “We called the police and asked officers to go with us to the address.  As soon as the meter was taken, they lost power at the residence.  The police have documented that case.”

He said the other instance used ‘jumpers’ to by-pass the metering at an empty house. “Someone cut the metering seal and removed the cover and used metal plates to make a connection without the meter.  That’s a danger; thieves would risk innocent lives, perhaps a family member, others and maybe our employees.”  Hourieh said in this instance there is no way to tell how long the theft had been taking place.

About the stolen meter, “I think they believe they could use it somewhere else. If somebody took your meter, for instance, and installed it down the block, we would know.  There are new meters that when you plug them in, they automatically report to the plant.  Then we’d know where that meter was.  Of course, as soon as they remove your meter, you’ve lost power, so then we’d be aware of the situation.”

“Our current system, AMR, Automatic Meter Reading, will be replaced by newer models, but they still report to let us know that the meter is in the wrong place. With the new system, it’s an immediate report and we’re working on acquiring them in the future,” he explained.

Hourieh explained the danger issues, “These people aren’t qualified to do this and you’re not following the International Code we use, they probably aren’t using the correct wire for a connection for the load they’re connecting to and that could cause an outage. When you have power changes you’re not accounting for, you’re overloading the circuit and that causes a breaker to trip and everybody loses power.”

On the legal side, Hourieh explained that the police will make a case which goes to the DA and from there it goes to court. “It’s hard to quantify how much power was lost, but we can estimate from the uses in the house how much was in use, but it’s hard to determine for how long it’s been stolen.”  He added the police are called in because sometimes there may be a marijuana grow operation in place which consumes a lot of electrical power.  “Everybody loses on these deals so that’s why we ask neighbors in the area to report anyone that may be tampering with the lines or meters.”  He cited a case involving a mobile home in South Carolina that used as many as nine extension cords from neighbors to power the home.  There was a fire from an overload and two year old twins died from that.”

The Superintendent added, “If service to a home is unsafe, we won’t connect it, it could be a fire hazard. Sometimes a person will run an extension cord which magnifies the problem.  We look out for these as a safety for the occupants, employees or responders if there’s a fire.  If someone puts a jumper on the meter, there’s a chance it could literally explode on them. If you don’t know what the fault load is, you could create an arc and an explosion.  Whoever took that meter could create a dangerous situation for them or someone else if they try to use it.”

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyFeaturedLaw EnforcementPolice ReportPublic SafetyUtilities


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