FRAUDSTERS are stealing gas meters and risking lives to save on their household bills.
A number of thefts have been reported across Sunderland where meters have been stolen from homes.
Police believe the thieves are then using the meters to replace their own in an attempt to defraud suppliers – and save some cash.
In February, a gas meter and pipes were stolen from a house in Byron Street, Southwick.
This resulted in homes being evacuated while the supply was made safe.
Further thefts have been reported across the region in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead this month.
Police say these type of incidents could have tragic consequences for not only the person tampering with the gas, but unsuspecting people living nearby.
Superintendent Jim Napier, from Sunderland Area Command, said: “It’s incredibly dangerous to tamper with gas.
“Thieves are risking not only their own, but other people’s lives by stealing gas meters. This one mindless act could lead to serious, if not fatal consequences.
“I’d ask thieves if they are willing to have someone’s death on their conscience for the sake of saving money on their gas bills.
“We are working closely with gas companies so that when their engineers spot a gas meter they think has been tampered with or stolen during checks, they report it to us so we can pay the householder a visit.
“I’d encourage residents to continue supplying us with information on anyone they suspect is using a fraudulent gas supply.”
Peter Christie, health, safety and environment operations manager at Northern Gas Networks, said: “Stealing a gas meter is a very dangerous thing to do as it could cause a risk of explosion, endangering not only the perpetrators but also any members of public in the vicinity.
“If we suspect theft of gas or gas equipment, we will immediately report it to the police.”
People can contact police on 101, extension 69191.