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The crime reporting line Crimestoppers says it has received over 1000 pieces of information on energy crime since launching its dedicated ‘Stay Energy Safe’ service in the autumn.
The service has seen the charity partner with companies to host a first of its kind anonymous reporting service for the public to report energy crime through stayenergysafe.co.uk and through a dedicated free-phone number, 0800 023 2777.
The service, which has seen the charity partner with 96 of the UK’s energy providers and distributors, saw 920 pieces of information passed through the service since its launch in September. A further 200 pieces of information have been passed through Crimestoppers’ 0800 555 111 number and anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org. Near all, 97 per cent of online forms received through stayenergysafe.co.uk were deemed actionable in February from 184 forms submitted, and were forwarded to the relevant supplier or distributor to act on.
While most information supplied through Stay Energy Safe’s service relates to incidents of electricity theft, just over one in ten pieces of information relates to both electricity and gas. One report received through Stay Energy Safe revealed an individual had been bypassing their pay as you go meter at their home for over a year. After an investigation by the energy provider, it was found they owed their nearly £2,000, with the provider telling Crimestoppers “without any doubt, this would not have been discovered without information to Stay Energy Safe.”
Another tip-off saw someone reported for stealing both gas and electricity over a number of years. The amount of energy stolen amounted to almost £10,000. A slightly different report highlighted how a customer had an electrician install a separate meter, bypassing the one linked to the energy provider. Information was received about the customer, with the cost of the energy stolen amounting to an estimated £20,000.
Crimestoppers makes the point that it’s never revealed the identity of anyone who contacts it in its 29 years; the Stay Energy Safe service is another example of how anonymous information can lead to criminals being identified, and communities kept safe, the charity says. Energy firms say tampered and bypassed meters are costing the UK more than money, with the risk to life and property very real with the threat of gas or electrical explosions.
Around 1,500 people in the UK are charged by the police for energy theft each year. If found guilty, they are likely to have to pay back the value of energy stolen, plus the costs of the investigation. But the outcome can also include community service, or even a prison sentence of up to five years.
Roger Critchell, Director of Operations for Crimestoppers, said: “The aim of this service is to give people a voice that know of energy crime, but maybe didn’t know who to turn to. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response, but also how prevalent energy crime seems to be. The positive for us is that people feel they can come and speak to us about those breaking the law, safe in the knowledge they won’t be identified.
“It’s important that, while the first six months of Stay Energy Safe have been very positive, that we keep working hard to prevent this crime, to ensure people cheating the system are caught, and that communities are not put at risk by their exploits.”