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Electricity theft record a sign of growing desperation amid rising prices, campaigners say

A RECORD number of people are stealing electricity, new figures revealed today, prompting fears that the cost-of-living crisis is pushing individuals into “increasingly desperate” situations. 

Electricity theft, which can be carried out by tampering with wires or bypassing meters, can lead to injury and even death and is punishable by up to five years in prison. 

The Home Office figure show that police forces across England and Wales received 3,600 reports of “dishonest use of electricity” in the year to March, up 13 per cent on 2020-21 and the most since comparable records began in 2012-13.

About 1,100 of these reports are from between January and March, almost double the number recorded in the same period of 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Tampering with meters can leave wires exposed, causing electric shocks, fires and explosions. Cases of the crime include stealing electricity from neighbours or people tampering with or bypassing their own meter to pay less for their energy. 

The practice is estimated to cost energy companies at least £440 million a year, with these costs then passed on to customers, according to Stay Energy Safe, operated by the Crimestoppers charity. 

However, campaign group National Energy Action (NEA) warned that the practice could be an indicator of increasing desperation among people struggling to pay energy bills as prices soar. 

The group said it is also seeing struggling people using candles instead of lights to keep their energy costs down. 

In response to the figures, NEA director of policy and advocacy Peter Smith said: “This is not only illegal but dangerous too and it’s horrifying if the crisis is forcing households to try this to keep the lights on.

“And this is happening now, before winter and the cold weather hits.”

Mr Smith said that more support is needed to help people struggling to pay their energy bills, which are now expected to hit £3,358 a year on average from October. 

The government said it is providing £37 billion to help households with the cost of living.

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