If you charge your phone using an electrical outlet that you don’t own or pay for, are you stealing electricity? Earlier this week, riders on the Los Angeles Metro subway system began hearing that they might be ticketed or arrested if caught using electrical outlets on subway platforms to charge their phones.
It turned out that no tickets had been issued for this offense. The confusion arose because of three arrests that had been made on charges related to possession of narcotics and counterfeit money, as well as theft of utilities (for plugging phones into subway outlets).
As a result, riders changed their charging behavior while waiting for the train, according to radio station KPCC:
Blue Line rider Jescenia Rhodes, 58, of Compton, nervously unplugged her cell phone while waiting for the train at the Grand rail stop.
“I’m going to have to undo my phone cause they see me with my phone,” she said eyeing a group of maintenance workers in orange vests.
Rhodes escaped any trouble but the group of workers seemed to spook another rider, Kia Chandler of Long Beach, who was also juicing up her cell phone.
Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales added to the confusing by saying the arrests were legit since the subjects were essentially stealing. “The electrical plugs are for maintenance use only, not for the general public. It’s not free electricity,” he told KPCC.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is also Metro Chair, ordered a halt to the arrests. As long as the commuters using the electrical outlets are not interfering with subway operations or maintenance, they’re not committing an offense. “This is simply common sense,” Garcetti said. “I want our law enforcement resources directed toward serious crime, not cell phone charging.”