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Danville Utilities customers will receive an insert in their next bill that warns about the dangerous and dishonest but growing practice of tampering with electricity meters.
The department is asking customers for their help in curbing the practice by reporting if they see or hear someone talking about bypassing the meter.
"It has been an ongoing problem, but it seems to be getting worse,” said Steve Saum, director of the city’s Utilities Department.
Customers can call the department at (434) 799-5159 or anonymously complete an online form at www.danvilleutilities.com.
Saum said tampering with an electricity meter is extremely dangerous.
“Tampering with a meter can result in electrocution, explosion or fire,” Saum said. “Only trained utilities personnel wearing protective gear should work on meters.”
An electric meter is a device used for measuring the amount of energy supplied to a residential or commercial building. Meter tampering (also called current diversion) occurs when someone manipulates a meter to prevent the proper registration of the kilowatt-hours on the meter. Because of the tampering, the consumer receives a lower electric bill.
Saum said stealing electricity might seem like a victimless crime, but all utilities customers share in the cost.
"Everyone eventually ends up paying for the theft because the cost of purchasing and distributing the electricity has to be accounted and paid for," Saum said.
Danville Utilities has upgraded its electricity meters with advanced technology called “smart” meters. These meters can pinpoint fluctuations from high to low, which helps the department to discover meter tampering. The department also trains field employees to look for suspicious circumstances.
Nevertheless, Saum wants customers to be aware of the problem and to assist in curbing it by supplying tips.
Danville Utilities provides natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications services in Danville and distributes electricity to approximately 42,000 customer locations in a 500-square-mile service territory covering Danville, the southern third of Pittsylvania County, and small portions of Henry and Halifax counties.