Bangor Hydro looks to stem electric meter fraud, crime

Posted Oct. 05, 2012, at 8:37 p.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — After a pair of attempted home burglaries in Orono and Old Town and an increase in electric meter thefts, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.’s new security specialist is working to stem future crimes and attempts to cheat the system, according to a Bangor Hydro spokesman.

Bangor Hydro hired Dave Bowler, a former Maine State Police lieutenant, three months ago, the company’s response to an increase in copper thefts in recent years, Spokesman Bob Potts said Friday.

But his duties will stretch beyond that, Potts said, as Bangor Hydro has seen a steady stream of problems involving electric meter thefts and tampering that are costing the company — and its ratepayers — money.

“We’re incurring costs because of this that over time are going back to ratepayers, and that’s not OK,” Potts said.

On Thursday, police in Orono and Old Town were called to two separate residences to investigate apparent break-in attempts. In both instances, someone had disconnected the electric meters in an attempt to shut off power to the building and turn off the alarm systems.

Old Town police Sgt. Scott Casey said late Friday afternoon that police were called Thursday to a home in Old Town after the alarm company noticed that electricity to the building had been cut off.

“Their thinking was that as long as they pulled the electrical meter from its casing that that would prevent any alarms from going off,” Casey said.

Casey declined to say where that home was located, as police are still investigating the incident and keeping an eye on the home. Casey said police don’t know whether anything was taken from the building, but it appeared someone had forced entry into the home.

Orono police Capt. Josh Ewing said Friday that a similar incident occurred at a Stillwater Avenue home on Thursday. Nothing was missing from the home and police aren’t sure anyone actually got inside.

Officers are investigating both incidents and attempting to determine whether they are linked, Ewing said.

Along with the apparent burglary attempts, Bangor Hydro has seen an uptick in the number of people trying to get their electricity for free by disconnecting their meters or stealing meters from other residences and placing them on their own homes in an attempt to dodge electricity fees.

Potts said Bowler has seen that happen at least once or twice per week since he started his new job. Such attempts to cheat the system typically lead to a theft of services charge and fines, Potts added.

“It’s crazy the extent to which people will go to to cheat the system,” Potts said.

Every time a meter is tampered with, Bangor Hydro has to send technicians or line workers to repair the damage. Potts said he didn’t have numbers available on how many incidents the company has dealt with or how much those cost the company.

“It absolutely is becoming an issue,” Potts said. “We’re taking a good, hard look at it.”

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