New analysis by Direct Line for Business reveals a surge in the number of police investigations into the theft of electricity, where people have tampered with a gas or electricity meter.
Police investigations into the theft of electricity are projected to be 13 per cent higher this year than in 2018, and the company forecasts that there will be 2,200 cases in 2019 compared to 1,950 in 2018.
In almost a quarter of existing cases, police suspect electricity was being stolen for the cultivation or manufacture of illegal drugs: this is becoming an increasingly common problem involving private rental properties innocently let by landlords and agents.
Since the start of 2017 there have been over 5,200 cases investigating the theft of electricity, an average of seven cases opened every day. People can receive a significant prison term for electricity theft alone, with a starting point of 12 weeks’ custody for serious offenders.
For those found guilty of running a cannabis operation, capable of producing industrial quantities for commercial use, a criminal can expect to be jailed for between four and eight years.
Just three police forces across England and Wales account for nearly a third of all investigations into the theft of electricity.
Greater Manchester Police handled 14 per cent of all investigations into the theft of electricity since 2017, followed by West Yorkshire Police (12 per cent) and Merseyside Police (seven per cent).
Greater Manchester Police also had the highest number of investigations where it was suspected the power stolen was being used for the manufacture of illegal drugs, with 710 cases recorded between 2017 and the end of June 2019. This was followed by West Yorkshire Police with 602 investigations and Merseyside with 376.