THE country's main energy supplier has reported a big increase in attempts to steal electricity by tampering with meter boxes.
So far this year, ESB Networks has detected more than 1,000 incidents where individuals have attempted to steal electricity from the semi-state provider, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Culprits are being brought before district courts across the country and 162 people have already been successfully prosecuted for offences relating to the unlawful interference with electricity this year alone.
An ESB spokeswoman confirmed there has been a major increase in attempted theft since 2009.
"Overall, there has been an increase of over 50pc in the number of instances of interference detected over the last three years," she said.
The mode of interference with electrical equipment varies. In some incidents, holes are drilled in the meter's casing and an implement is inserted to reduce or stop its recording capacity.
ESB Networks has also found offenders attempting to by-pass the meter by sourcing a direct connection with the ESB mains supply.
A person found guilty of such an offence faces a fine of up to €150,000 and/or five years' imprisonment.
The company also warns that interference with meters and electrical equipment is extremely dangerous and could be fatal.