Skip to comments.Electricity theft bleeds power grid dry, officials say
Posted on 01/24/2005 1:13:36 PM PST by hsmomx3
PHOENIX (AP) -- They look like cobwebs or huge balls of spaghetti hanging from electric poles across Mexico, gigantic clusters of illegal electric lines known as diablitos, or "little devils."
Dentist Benjamin Rodriguez has one hanging outside his window in the Xochimilco neighborhood of Mexico City. Like an evil parasite, it makes his lights flicker and stops his dental drill. Occasionally, the transformer across the street explodes.
"Six or seven times a year, the power just goes out completely," Rodriguez said.
"You call the power company and they come and cut all the illegal lines and the next day they're back up."
Mexico's Energy Department says electricity thieves are bleeding the country's power grid dry, causing millions of dollars of losses, starting fires and crippling the country's efforts to modernize.
Now the government has launched a crackdown on the thieves, installing tamper-proof meters and running ads urging people to report theft.
"To the devil with diablitos!" say TV commercials as cartoon devils with electrical cords for tails prowl the streets of a darkened neighborhood.
In central Mexico alone, the amount of electricity lost, mainly through diablitos, rose 8.7 percent from September 2003 to September 2004, according to Luis de Pablo, director of Central Light and Power. In the rest of the country, it rose 1.3 percent.
In Mexico state, where squatters have built entire cities around the capital, about 300,000 houses are using stolen power, according to the state Electrification Board.
That's equivalent to a city the size of Tucson, and the figure doesn't count the thousands of diablitos serving taco stands, CD sellers and other street vendors.
"It really hurts us, because that money could be going into infrastructure," said Gerardo Lerma, a spokesman for Central Light and Power.
Diablitos were cited as the possible cause of a fire that swept through a shantytown in Juarez in 2003, killing four women, and one that destroyed a public market in Durango in May. On Dec. 2, two firefighters were injured battling a blaze caused by a diablito at a recycling warehouse in the Mexico City suburb of San Juan Tlihuaca.
The government launched its campaign against diablitos in 2003, but honest electricity customers say it has not gone far enough. On Oct. 14, customers from Mexico state protested in front of Central Light and Power, demanding that the company take action against theft, which is inflating their electricity bills.
The illegal lines are an epidemic in low-income places like Xochimilco. Around the central plaza, street vendors have broken open ornamental lampposts and strung lines to their stands. Other lines disappear into homes.
Thieves around the plaza refused to give their names. But many said they have to use the diablitos because the government is slow to install new lines to homes and has only a few electrical outlets for street vendors.
In the past two years, Central Light and Power has installed 500,000 tamper-proof meters and 840 miles of new cable with an outer coating meant to foil electricity thieves, Lerma said.
It has also gotten 250,000 thieves to become paying customers by installing new lines to their homes, he said. Electricity theft is a federal crime but most offenders get off with a warning because overworked prosecutors can't handle the extra cases, officials say.
There is one electric meter on the pole outside the La Vega shoe store. It's connected to outlets used by four sidewalk stands, including that of video-game seller Juan Loiza.
"We use the meter and share the bill, but look at this," he said, pointing at 10 other electric lines that climb the pole like vines. "Who else is going to pay when they can just put up a line?"
Apparently the voltage isn't high enough on these feader lines.
distribute at 4160 or 16kv and this wouldn't be a problem for long
I'm betting it's only a matter of time before Mexico starts stringing wire and cables to US locations for free electricity.
Instead of just cutting the illegal lines, why don't they follow them to the culprits, and put on the cuffs?
Some amazing electrical discharge photos/video:
Can someone explain to me why Mexico and the Mexicans are now, and always have been, so decrepit and backward? It is beyond my comprehension, given that they've lived next door to the greatest nation in the history of the planet for over two hundred years. You'd think they'd have picked up some good ideas along the way from their neighbor to the north, rather than the worst behaviors of their screwed up neighbors to their south. What's the basis of their problem? Inquiring minds want to know...
Maybe it's something in the water?
Rotten culture, perhaps? Acceptance of vices like tardiness, sloppiness and theft?
I don't know. You tell me.
I built a 7 foot high 10 million volt tesla coil. :-)
Neighbors thought UFOs had landed.
Maybe it has something to do with our open borders. Those with initiative (whether for good or for ill) run for the border. Those without take another siesta.
Cool! Can we string a few thousand of them along the border as bug zappers?
--start with the legacy of imperial Spain--ignorance, superstition, brutality, corruption,---
I think they would be harder to tap into if they just buried the cable.
Still, there is some poetic justice to this. Legal power consumers complaining about how illegal activity is causing them to have to pay more for their services. Well welcome to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
What we have a thing called "protestant work ethics". This causes the majority to be conscious about giving a day work for a day pay. Granted, not only protestants are conscious, but that was the genesis of this cultural lack of epidemic corruption that is so pervasive in other countries.
"You'd think they'd have picked up some good ideas along the way from their neighbor to the north"
Oh, they have. They just move here. Problem solved.