Meter mischief

The City of Altus is having a problem it's never had before.  People are stealing utilities.  Although it's not an unusual problem, the city says it's how they are stealing it that's new.  They're using magnets.

Meter reader Shane Smith says he was entering a back yard to read the electric meter when, all of a sudden, he noticed duct tape and a magnet wrapped around the meter's plastic casing.  He immediately knew something wasn't right.

Apparently, the magnet stops the disc that reads how much electricity is being used.  So, the bill ends up being a fraction of what it should be.  Meter Services Supervisor Dennis Murphy says there are a lot of methods to stealing electricity.  Some steal from abandoned homes and used the electricity as their own and never see a bill.  Others jump start meters that have already been turned off by using copper wires or spoons.

Usually, the dead give away that a meter has been tampered with is a broken seal.  But, with the magnet method, it can be hard to detect if the seal has been broken.  In this latest case, the homeowner was caught and had avoided paying for around seven months - $700 worth of bills.

The city warns would be thieves that they will be stuck with a $100 fine to the city and $500 for the crime itself.  On top of that, all utilities stolen from the electric company must be repaid.