The Yazoo City Public Service Commission is cracking down on utility theft across the city, which has become a growing problem with residents over the past few months.
PSC General Manager Richie Moore said that persons caught stealing electricity will be charged a tampering fee of $200, and that criminal charges will also be filed with the police department.
"It's a huge safety hazard," he said. "We recently had an incident where one of our employees was almost electrocuted because a customer was stealing electricity."
In an article previously reported by the Herald, a man living on Charles Street had hooked an extension cord directly into a transformer, feeding the stolen electricity directly into his house from an abandoned dwelling.
The PSC employee, whom was about to cut the cord, was stopped just in time by a city official who realized that the ground near the area being tampered with was electrified.
"A lot of people don't know that it's not the voltage, but the amps in the electricity that kills people," Moore said. "Electricity looks for a path to the ground, meaning the actual physical ground, so if you have somebody standing on the ground near an energized line or something that is being tampered with, it can be dangerous....it only takes a very small amount of amps to kill somebody."
Currently PSC employees are already actively looking for any cases of tampering with or stealing public utilities.
"A lot of times when our workers are out checking the meters and reading their route, they come across spots where they see people are tampering," Moore said. "If you go to a house where a meter has been removed, but you see lights on or air conditioning or heating in that dwelling, then you know that somebody there is stealing electricity."
Moore said that over the last few months PSC has dealt with around 25 cases of utility theft across Yazoo City.
He added that when a case of tampering or theft is discovered, PSC works quickly to determine the total amount of electricity stolen before going forward with an affidavit to begin criminal charges against that individual.
"We try to do the paperwork within a day of discovering the theft," Moore said. "As soon as we catch it, we go down to the police department and sign the affidavit. It starts out as a misdemeanor charge, but if the amount of electricity stolen totals at more than $500, it will turn into a felony."
Moore said that he is confident that the local municipal court will do a good job at helping combat utility theft in the city.
In the meantime, he encourages citizens to report any signs of tampering with electricity in the community, which can be potentially hazardous to residents in any neighborhood.
To report potential cases of utility theft, please call the Yazoo City Public Service Commission at 662-746-3741.