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Published: Sunday, 2/24/2008

Gas meters stolen from 5 homes in North Toledo

The theft of gas meters from homes and businesses can create dangerous gas leaks, according to a Columbia Gas spokesman.

Five meters were stolen last week from homes in North Toledo.

When meters are removed improperly, the natural gas measured by the meter leaks into the air.

The gas could be accidentally ignited, perhaps by a passer-by with a lit cigarette, said Chris Kozak, a Columbia Gas spokesman.

The meters may have been stolen to be resold to households whose gas was shut off because of nonpayment of utility bills, Mr. Kozak said.

"They're not a very high scrap value," Mr. Kozak said, explaining his company's assumption that the stolen meters may be intended for resale.

"The concern is that whoever is taking these meters and reinstalling them is not [properly] certified," Mr. Kozak said.

The devices replaced since Tuesday have cost Columbia Gas $60 per meter.

Two replacements went to homes in the 1000 block of North Superior Street which are operated by the Aurora Project, an organization that shelters homeless women and children.

Someone also stole copper pipes and an air-conditioning unit last week at two Aurora Project shelters, said Denise Fox, the organization's executive director.

"I'm just really disheartened," Ms. Fox said, adding that leaders of the Aurora Project "really envision a campus environment that is very safe, very secure, a great place for the kids to play.

"But when this happens, it makes you take a step back."

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