DTE Energy in Michigan is reporting an epidemic of utility thefts, says the Detroit News. As many as 70,000 homes and businesses in the state — or roughly 3 percent of DTE’s customers — are stealing natural gas and electricity. The method of stealing can be dangerous. At one apartment complex, all of the meter boxes had been opened and rigged with wires that span the bare connectors and allow power to flow into the units without being measured.
“That’s 240 volts going through wires that are barely heavy enough to power a light switch,” says a power-company official whose 61-man crew dismantles up to 500 illegal hookups a day. “If someone brushes up against that box, they’re gone.” At another location, a wire running from a utility pole into a tumble-down home that appears to be barely habitable is “a fire waiting to happen,” the News says. A welfare rights organization complaints that the utility disconnects too many customers for failing to pay their bills, but the company says it kicks in $9 million to help indigent customers.