Don't get your fingers burnt..electricity theft is not worth the risk

Stealing electricity is often seen as a victimless crime, but with the launch of its new safety campaign “Don’t get your fingers burnt: it’s not worth the risk”, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is hoping to change that misconception and remind everyone of the deadly danger these criminal activities pose to local communities.

Diverting electricity away from its legitimate intended destination is not only illegal, it is incredibly dangerous, with the potential for serious injury, burns or even death facing those carrying out the theft. Not only that, but as the perpetrators very often leave the scene of their crime in an unsafe condition, it can pose a real safety risk to the local community at any point in the network. An electricity cable which has had its protective coating illegally removed can be a fire risk for nearby properties, and damage to the perimeter wall that normally protects a substation can prove tempting to young children keen to explore ‘behind closed doors’.

Shane Scarsbrook heads up SSEN’s Revenue Protection Department, which has teams working day and night to ensure that the network is safe and secure, not only to keep the lights on for the company’s 3.7m customers, but also to make sure that all of their substations, cables and overhead wires are free from any tampering or interference.

“At SSEN we all work on the understanding that “If it’s not safe, we don’t do it.” Not only is stealing electricity highly dangerous, in the worst cases it can result in a fatality. It’s not just the act of stealing electricity that is dangerous in its own right, the fallout from this criminal activity can also impact negatively on innocent bystanders and neighbouring buildings. We’ve come across substations where the locks have been sawn off, doors smashed in and fences cut open, with the end result looking very tempting for young children to explore or meaning it’s too easy to retrieve a stray football or Frisbee. We’ve also come across street-lighting columns which have been ‘tapped into’ to abstract electricity for illegal activities."

If the thought of potentially killing themselves, friends and neighbours is not enough of a deterrent, for those who are caught, charged and prosecuted for stealing the electricity there is also the prospect of a fine of up to £2,000 and five years behind bars.

SSEN is encouraging everyone to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity near its equipment and substations. They’d also like to hear from you if you see extra cables, clips or wires attached to communal electricity meters, as this is a clue to possible theft of incoming electricity.

There are a number of ways in which you can report suspicious activity on SSEN’s network, all of which will treat your call in strictest confidence:

  • To contact SSEN's Revenue Protection team, you can either call 0800 048 1618, or email them at
  • For suspicious activity or damage in and around a substation, please call SSEN's 'SubWatch' team on 0800 980 3290 
  • Alternatively, StayEnergySafe, which is affiliated to Crimestoppers, can be contacted on 0800 023 2777 or at

To watch a short video with Shane Scarsbrook, click on the image above.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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