Extension cords lead to electricity thief Power siphoned from rail station

November 17, 1993|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

It wasn't too hard to get a line on the thief who was stealing electricity from the light rail system.

Officer Howard S. Gorrell just pulled on the extension cords illegally plugged into a North Linthicum substation and wound up at the back door of his suspect's house.

"This is the first time I've ever seen something like this," said Officer Gorrell, who is with the Mass Transit Administration Police.

Robert Melvin Greene of the 6000 block of Belle Grove Road in Linthicum was arrested Oct. 29 and charged with the theft of electricity valued under $300. He allegedly stole current from the MTA by stringing eight extension cords together.

State officials don't know how much electricity was stolen. They've asked Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to provide records so they can try to figure that out.

Mr. Greene, 44, said yesterday that he stole the electricity only because BG&E had turned off his power six days earlier and he was cold and frustrated. He said he has been unemployed for about a year.

"I'm not a criminal," said Mr. Greene. "I think in my position they'd probably have done the same thing."

A spokesman for BG&E said the company does not comment on its customers' accounts.

An MTA maintenance worker discovered the theft during a routine check of the area when he noticed a bush had recently been transplanted a dozen feet to a spot next to the substation.

Behind the bush, a metal cover had been pried open and an extension cord was plugged into the outlet. The cords nearest the substation were buried an inch below a gravel surface.

Officer Gorrell was called to the scene and traced the cords about 100 feet to the sliding glass door on the back of Mr. Greene's house.

"How long could you expect to have an extension cord running into your home?" said James F. Buckley, the MTA's deputy administrator. "It was like leading a trail behind you. He could never have gotten away with this for long."

In his subsequent report on the incident, Officer Gorrell wrote that Mr. Greene was quick to admit his crime:

"When I approached the suspect he stated, 'I'm guilty.' "

"He was then asked if this was his residence. He again stated, 'I'm guilty.' "

"He was asked if the electrical cord belonged to him and he stated, 'Yes, I'm guilty.' "

A District Court commissioner in Glen Burnie released Mr. Greene on his own recognizance shortly after his arrest on the misdemeanor charge. No trial date has been set.

He faces a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of no more than $500.

The substation is one of 14 spaced along the 22.5-mile Central

Light Rail Line, said Joseph K. Love, the MTA's assistant director for rail maintenance.

The green metal buildings contain transformers that provide electricity to run the system.

However, the outside outlet carries normal household current, not the 750-volt direct current that powers trains. The outlet is used mostly to power maintenance equipment.

Mr. Greene probably cost the MTA no more than 20 cents an hour, Mr. Love said. "Two hair dryers would have blown that circuit," he said. "He probably couldn't run much more than lights and a refrigerator."

MTA officials said as far as they know this was the first time anyone has stolen electricity from the light rail system.

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