Every day headlines bring reports of theft: cars stolen, banks robbed and houses broken into. But Pacific Power deals with another kind of theft - theft of electricity.

Pacific Power reminds people that tampering with electric meters and stealing electricity is punishable by law. In addition to being a crime, meter tampering and theft pose serious safety hazards that affect entire communities.

"When one person tampers with an electric meter, everyone pays for it," said Amy Eschete, Pacific Power's public safety manager. "The theft results in increased costs for our company and customers, and tampering with a meter is very dangerous, to both the person involved and others."

Meter tampering may cause severe electrical flashes, expose energized wires or involve other improper wiring, creating hazards to the public. Electrical flashes may cause serious burns to the vandal. Hidden traps created by the tampering may cause injury to meter readers, electrical workers, people walking by and children playing. In addition, electrical fires may result.

Pacific Power offers some tips to help people avoid danger related to meter tampering, and other electrical hazards:

• If you see someone acting suspiciously around an electric meter or panel box, immediately report them to authorities.

• Report meter tampering, open electric meters or other apparent electrical hazards involving power systems to Pacific Power at (888) 221-7070.

• Keep children away from electric equipment at all times. They should not play on or around pad-mounted ground transformers (the green boxes in neighborhoods having underground power lines), substations or other electric equipment, as this equipment contains high-voltage electricity which can be deadly.

• Never go near open electric panel boxes. Exposed wires may cause injury.

• If someone becomes injured by contacting exposed wires, do not touch them or anything they"re touching because they still may be in contact with energized wires or equipment, causing you to become part of the electricity"s path to ground. Call 9-1-1 immediately and wait for help to arrive.

"Electricity injures instantly and is unforgiving," Eschete said. "It does not discriminate on who it hurts, so it's critical that people use caution around electricity and report people who appear to be tampering with a meter. We don"t want anyone to get hurt."

For more information, please visit the Web site at (www.pacificpower.net) or call (800) 791-6093 for free safety materials.