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$500 LIGHT bill - Crooked electricians selling JPS power to 'customers'!

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Tomblin
Police look on as JPS contractors remove illegal power connections from homes on Stephen Street, Rae Town, Kingston, in 2011. -FILE
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Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Some electricians are aiding the theft of electricity distributed by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and selling power to persons in some communities across the island.

The 'customers' are paying up to $500 per week to these 'power providers' with monthly bills being about $2,000.

Now the JPS wants the police to prosecute the thieves, as well as the facilitators of this robbery.

"It happens, absolutely. The people tell us who they are paying. Very few women are involved in this, as very few know how to do it, or are doing it. This is a business. And every community has something different going regarding electricity theft," said Kelly Tomblin, president and CEO of the JPS.

"There is a particular community in Portmore, St Catherine, where they have a system to pay the guy to do the throw-ups in the evening and remove it in the morning when JPS is likely to come. The fee is $500 a week and it was working out sometimes to $2,500 per month," added Winsome Callum, the company's public relations manager.

sophisticated gadgets

"So our official told them they could be paying that sum to JPS and have electricity all the time," noted Callum, as she repeated the call for individuals to get connected with the legal source.

The JPS executives said even business operators have turned to these electricians to help them steal electricity.

"We are now focused on businesses. A lot of the theft is taking place by businesses. It takes a lot more time and effort to detect it, if the sophisticated gadgets we have seen in some locations are anything to go by," said Callum.

The stealing of electricity has long been a major headache for the JPS, and the company has repeatedly pointed out that the throw-up lines in lower-income communities is not its only challenge.

Last week, Tomblin, reiterated that affluent Jamaicans also steal electricity, and in some instances their theft is much more than an entire lower-income communities.

"The theft we see in affluent communities is not a total theft. They have a meter. But they usually bypass the meter something, like an air conditioner, or make adjustments to the meters to make them go slower ... it's not the norm for some to steal, as in some communities where they have been told that this is your house and it comes free with light and water," stated Tomblin.

She noted that JPS officials must do careful searches to locate the bypass devices hidden in "unbelievable" parts of upscale houses and business places.

"That is where the expertise of the electricians is utilised for a fee," said Tomblin.

"Sometimes our specialists have to literally put their ears to a wall and listen for a tick, tick, to find where the bypass is taking place. One I saw was near the toilet paper. So you have to take the toilet paper apparatus off.

"When I came here and saw the technology involved, it was unbelievable. I was overwhelmed. We are fighting fraud, that which is visible and that which is not," said Tomblin.

She said previously it was easier to detect electricity theft; however, the company is now finding it harder to detect as persons include renewables and energy-saving devices to help mask their illegal activities.

"And they get very upset, when we say we are auditing you, 'I want to see your connections', because they argue that their usage has been cut in half by using renewables."

According to Tomblin, the "shame factor" among the affluent is beneficial to the company, as when caught, the members of this group are more willing to pay than face the courts.

In instances where electricity theft is before the courts, persons found guilty and are fined pay that fine to the State rather than the JPS.