Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative explains problems and dangers of stolen electricity

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 12:52 PM CDT
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GREGG AND HARRISON COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - If you want electricity, you have to pay for it, although there are some who rig a dangerous way to get it for free. But power companies have an employee who specializes in disconnecting illegal hookups, like the Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative.

Upshur Rural Line Lineman Willie Rawls and Spokesman Tony McCullough are looking at a few of the devices used to steal electricity. McCullough says it’s been happening since power began flowing.

“Upshur Rural is a cooperative, so we’re a non-profit. And all our expenses are paid by our members. So when someone steals electricity; say their average bill is 200 dollars a month and they steal power for a year, the other members of that cooperative have to pay for that,” McCullough said.

He says power theft happens when some people are disconnected and have no money.

“And they’ll get creative and find a way, which is very very dangerous. It’s life-threatening not only for themselves, but their family, especially children,” McCullough said.

He explains it involves bare wires and homemade equipment which is usually in reach of kids and animals.

“Plus it can burn your home,” McCullough said.

So when electricity theft is discovered, they send in Willie Rawls to confiscate the devices, and that’s just what happened while we were talking.

“And Willie has been with us for ten years. And he goes out and inspects this if the linemen work on lines, or they get reports,” McCullough said.

So Willie calls for a deputy, in this case Harrison County.

“Even if you have a deputy there that’s armed, it’s still a scary situation,” McCullough said.

Willie verifies the illegal hookup, then shuts off the power at the pole. Next he disconnects the hookup. Deputies often check license plates at the scene. And in this case the RV illegally hooked up to the line was stolen.

According to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office there was a man in the RV that wouldn’t come out, but he did after backup arrived. He was arrested and faces multiple charges.

“Theft of power is a felony,” McCullough said.

The RV will be retrieved for the owner in Gregg County. Willie says sometimes the power theft is connected to other crime at the other end of the line.

Power theft generally results in arrest and is a state jail felony. Offenders also have to pay the power company for electricity used. Charges are calculated based on previous use before the power was shut off to that property.

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