DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When neighbors called Dallas police to report two people stealing copper wire from Martha Cruz’s Oak Cliff home, it was all a mix-up. But little did Cruz expect she’d be taken to jail.
It all began when police questioned Cruz about her electrical meter. “He said ‘What about this meter?’ I said ‘What about it?’ He said ‘Why is it different than the neighbors?’ I said ‘I didn’t know.'”
When police called Oncor, the company determined Cruz’s power had been shut-off more than two years ago. Around the same time, Oncor told police another meter had been reported stolen.
Oncor believed Cruz was stealing electricity, so police arrested the mother of four for criminal mischief and tampering with an electrical meter. “It’s not something I’m proud of. I was in need because I was going through a struggle financially,” Cruz admits.
In the blistering heat wave currently hitting North Texas, stealing electricity is a big problem, and could cost everyone.
Oncor reports so far in 2011 they’ve had 9,000 electrical thefts, roughly worth $2.6 million in losses. An Oncor spokeswoman says one of their biggest concerns is that when people steal electrical meters, they could start a fire, and worse, electrocute themselves.
As for Cruz, she says she was trying to workout a payment plan with Oncor. “Struggling mother has to do what she has to do to get her kids either out of the heat or a warm place.”
Now, she faces a state jail felony which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.