An estimated 10,000 Tijuana homes and more than 1000 businesses are stealing their electricity each month from Baja California's public utility, the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (Federal Electricity Commission).
"Diablitos" — the popular term for the devices employed to illegally divert electricity from power lines — have been associated with electrocutions and house fires, yet their widespread use continues, especially in the eastern reaches of the city.
In an interview with El Sol de Tijuana, Javier Larios Castañeda, CFE's superintendent for the Tijuana area, said the main reason electricity theft is more prevalent in eastern Tijuana is because the commission has programs in place elsewhere in the city to detect the diablitos.
Other factors contributing to the problem, Larios said, include requests for electric service at locations considered to be too "high risk" to send CFE workers (high crime zones) or at properties where those requesting service do not have legal title to the home or business. In such situations, the CFE won't provide electric service and often people just connect themselves to the grid illegally.
Larios told the newspaper he did not have an estimate of how much money the CFE was losing each month as a consequence of the thievery, but he calculated that roughly 2.5 percent of the commission's electricity generation is stolen per month.
The CFE, Larios said, has programs to "regularize" existing illegal connections to the power grid without repercussions, and strongly encouraged families to take advantage of them while they could. The problem of diablitos has been around in Tijuana for decades.