A new law signed this week aims to stop energy theft.
It TMs a crime that leads to dangerous fires and even death.
When times get tough, people can get desperate, and Consumers Energy says desperation is what's causing thousands of Michigan residents to commit energy theft.
Energy theft has become a big problem in Mid-Michigan.
Consumers Energy says in the past few years 10,000 residents have been caught every year stealing electricity or natural gas.
It is partly because of the economy, when times get tough, you see an increase in behavior like this, said Dan Bishop, the Public Information Director for Consumers Energy.
The President of the Flint Firefighters Union says he's seen it happen.
We TMve actually seen people run lines from the power lines out there into their homes, said Raul Garcia, the President of Flint Firefighters Union 352.
Consumers Energy says energy theft affects everyone. When utilities are stolen rates go up to compensate for lost revenue.
It's a real problem, because when someone steals energy they are stealing from all of us, we all have to pay for the energy that's stolen, said Bishop.
But a new law passed this week makes energy theft a crime.
"This bill today means that their can be a misdemeanor and felony penalties and fines if someone is found harassing or intimidating a utility employee, said Bishop.
The Flint Fire Department hopes the new law will also prevent people from getting hurt..
Well you can get electrocuted, you can get killed, you can cause an overcharge and cause fires," said Garcia.
Consumers Energy says energy theft is not worth it, and offers payment programs for people who fall behind on their bills.
Consumers energy says they can make arrangements for their customers to pay their utility bills over an extended period of time.
Many counties also offer a 211 service, where if residents call that number, it will provide information about public and private utility assistance programs.