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Jackson, MISS, USA --- (METERING.COM) --- August 3, 2006 –Mississippi energy provider Entergy billed more than US$400,000 in 2005 and so far this year has billed almost the same amount again to local customers who have been targeted as meter tamperers.

These are the customers who have been detected – but others have got away, as the utility reports in a recent statement, referring to the case of  “one intrepid thief who convinced residents to pay him to rig their meters and avoid monthly fees.”

In the statement Entergy reports a 22% increase in Mississippi tampering cases since 2003 and says that as a result six field investigators were brought on board, who are now working in the more populated areas of the state, especially Jackson, Southhaven and Vicksburg, to eradicate the practice.

And this in turn has also contributed to an increase in detections: “Because we now have dedicated field investigators trained specifically to identify and work tampering cases, we are able to identify more of those cases,” Entergy spokesperson Ann Becker tells smart-energy.com.

Becker explains that if one of the customer call centers receives a call from a customer complaining about tampering, at a neighbor's house for example, the phone center representative will first generate a tampering work order. This order will then be assigned to a tampering investigator, if it is in an area where there is a dedicated investigator, or to a meter services field representative, who will then inspect the meter and look for obvious signs of tampering. At the investigator's discretion, police may be called to press charges.

In addition, proactive orders are generated based on the analysis of investigators’ reports identifying locations of tampered meters and irregular consumption of electricity. These are analyzed in the billing system and proactive orders are generated for suspicious locations requiring field investigations.

Becker says that another report that is being piloted provides a monthly history for previous months for every residential customer on a specified line switch. “We are targeting switches within subdivisions because residential usage on these switches should be more consistent,” Becker says. “Unusually low usage for customers will result in account investigations in our billing system and, potentially, proactive tampering orders.”