Crime Lancashire: Rate of electricity thefts has increased dramatically over past 10 years
What is electricity theft and why do people do it?
Electricity theft is when meters are tampered with or bypassed to avoid paying charges, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has confirmed the issue is “a growing problem”.
The growth of cannabis farms, crypto-mining and the cost of living crisis are being blamed for record levels of electricity thefts, BBC analysis has revealed.
Assistant commissioner at the London Fire Brigade Charlie Pugsley said criminal activity including “anything from cannabis cultivation to Bitcoin mining” was largely behind the rise, but he said many others were tampering with meters because they were “desperate to survive” amid soaring energy costs.
The real-term cost of electricity has more than doubled since 2010 and other reports suggest the cost of living crisis has contributed to the recent spike.
For example, a survey of 150 electricians by insurance company Direct Line found more than a third had been asked by clients about illegally tampering with meters during the past year.
Stay Energy Safe has also cited the cost-of-living crisis as a potential cause of the rise, whilst highlighting the role organised crime has played.
How much has it increased in Lancashire?
The data shows that between 2012/2013 and 2022/23, the number of reported electricity thefts in Lancashire has increased by 86.44% going from a rate of 7.98 crimes per 100,000 people to 14.88 per 100,000.
This is higher than the national average which has seen a 75% increase over the past decade.
The full statistics for electricty crimes in Lancashire are as follows: 118 in 2012/13; 95 in 2013/14; 150 in 2014/15; 112 in 2015/16; 151 in 2016/17; 178 in 2017/2018; 104 in 2018/19; 127 in 2019/20; 234 in 2020/21; 313 in 2021/22; 220 in 2022/23.
For 2022/23, Lancashire has the fifth highest rate of electricty theft per 100,000 people in the country.
What are Lancashire Police doing about it?
Lancashire Police refused to comment when asked but Andrew Snowden, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire said: "As Commissioner I am committed to giving the Chief Constable the resources he needs to keep people safe and take the fight to criminals, in whatever form this takes.
"Electricity theft can often form part of investigations into crime gangs, potentially forming part of wider investigations through Op Warrior, disrupting organised crime.
"Whatever form it takes, electricity theft is dangerous and can cause serious harm and damage, and like all criminality I'm backing our officers to find offenders who pose a risk to the law-abiding majority across Lancashire and stop them putting others in danger."