Power meter thefts can be fatal - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Power meter thefts can be fatal

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –   A South Georgia power company sees an alarming jump in the number of meter thefts in East Albany.

Mitchell EMC officials say when thieves steal their meters, it often leaves high voltage wires exposed. And with school out they worry that kids could touch those wires, which could be deadly. So they are asking you to keep watch and help them stop these meter thefts.

Three Mitchell EMC power meters were stolen out the power junctions from three mobile homes at the Suburban Mobile Home park on Sylvester Road yesterday. They are worth $600, but the power company says they are concerned about more than the money.

Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation Loss Control Coordinator Charles Gilbert calls it "A matter of life or death."

With the temperatures soaring, thieves who might have had their own power turned off are taking the meters from vacant homes to replace meters at their home.

"This being just the first week of July, we've already had seven this month, and that number is probably going to increase as the summer gets a little bit hotter,"  Gilbert said.

Gilbert says many people think they know enough about the meters that they can jump the power back on, but he worries that what they don't know could kill them.

"You are talking about 240 volts, normally at 200 amps. Which is many, many times over what it takes to stop a person's heart or cause death," Gilbert said.

But besides the danger to the thieves, most will leave the power box wires exposed when they steal a meter,.

"But we're more concerned we have a lot of children, that could wander upon these open and available, exposed electrical panels," Gilbert said.

What's ironic, the thieves are leading investigators right to their home. Mitchell EMC has new sensors in their meter boxes which signal their headquarters when they are changed. So if they open or change their meter on their home, it will signal Mitchell EMC, which will send out a technician to investigate, pointing out the thefts. 

And that's exactly what happened at the Suburban Mobile Home park. EMC officials found one of the stolen meters hooked up to one of the homes there, and now Police are looking for that home owner.

Mitchell EMC says meter thefts usually increase during the heat of summer, but this year the problem is worse than they expected.

If you see someone suspicious at a meter box, they want you to call 911 or Mitchell EMC at 229-336-5221.

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