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The cost of living crisis has had households everywhere bracing themselves and preparing for rising energy prices, so much so that stealing electricity has increased.
Figures now show that theft of electricity hit record highs in England and Wales last year.
Theft of electricity is classed as tampering with a line or bypassing a meter. It's a worrying trend as doing so can be highly dangerous and cause serious injuries, and the act comes with a potential prison sentence of five years for those caught.
The National Energy Action (NEA) campaign group has now spoken out and said it was 'horrifying' that more people could be turning to this illegal practice as the energy prices crisis continues.
The latest figures from the Home Office show police forces across England and Wales received 3,600 reports of 'dishonest use of electricity' in the year to March, which is up 13 percent on 2020-21. This is also the biggest hike since records began in 2012.
Of these thefts, 1,100 are thought to have occurred between January and March when the weather is typically colder and the temperature drops.
Across the two nations, 57 percent of electricity theft cases closed last year had no suspect identified, while 30% were abandoned due to evidential difficulties and 7 percent resulted in a charge or summons.
Whilst the rising energy prices might have all of feeling the pinch, authorities have urged that stealing electricity is not the answer.
Stay Energy Safe, ran by Crimestoppers, has warned that tampering with a meter can lead to wires overheating, damage to property and even a potential loss of life.
Additionally, an Ofgem spokesperson urged 'under no circumstances should consumers attempt to connect electricity meters themselves'.
Whilst some might find themselves in desperate situations, the NEA has warned that some households might consider turning to electricity theft as the weather turns colder this year.
Peter Smith, NEA director of policy and advocacy, 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."
The NEA has previously said the predicted average annual energy bill from October could hit £2,800 - but this figure is now expected to reach £3,358.
A spokesperson for the government said: "We are committed to cracking down on crime, including the criminal theft of electricity, which causes serious injury to people and damage to property."
Featured Image Credit: Steve Skjold / Alamy Stock Photo Alexey Ivanov / Alamy Stock Photo
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