Jamaica utility to cut power to theft-prone towns

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm •  Published: May 13, 2014

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — The sole power distributor on Jamaica is slashing the number of hours that electricity is provided to entire communities where electricity theft is rampant, leaving political leaders fuming Tuesday.

The move by Jamaica Public Service Co. was called unjust by both main political parties, with one government minister describing it as a "national crisis." The Caribbean country's prime minister and its utility regulator summoned top company executives to meetings because of the impact on legitimate customers.

Senior utility official Gary Barrow said the company had "tried everything to reduce electricity theft" and was forced to cut hours that power is provided to neighborhoods where more than 70 percent of it is pilfered. The company said it was striving to minimize effects on businesses, hospitals and schools in eight impoverished communities that have so far been identified as prone to widespread theft.

Last year, the company removed nearly 200,000 illegal power lines, audited about 113,000 accounts and collaborated with police to arrest roughly 1,200 people suspected of energy theft. But high levels of theft continue, causing "extensive damage to the company's equipment and ongoing power outages caused by illegal connections," the utility said in a statement.

Karl Samuda, the opposition Jamaica Labor Party's spokesman on energy, said he believes the strategy violates the company's license. The utility, typically referred to as JPS, is unfairly punishing hardworking people who pay their electricity bills, he said.

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