IL Women Arrested in Their Backyards for Trying to Block Smart Meter Installation
January 24, 2013 3:04 PM
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City "exercise its right" to remove those looking to stand in the way of "progress"
In an incident that's sure to draw national attention, two women were dragged from their own backyards and arrested by police in Naperville, Illinois (a town located approximately 30 minutes west of Chicago) after they tried to block installation of
the city's new smart meters
President Obama has been pushing
for a "smart grid" for some time, with more high-tech meters that can access more detailed information on power usage. Proponents argue the
cut down on waste and mistakes. Critics cite a variety of concerns ranging from national security to health.
The two arrested women -- Jennifer Stahl and Malia "Kim" Bendis -- were leaders of an anti-smart meter group dubbed "Naperville Smart Meter Awareness". The group's website links to a critical article on the project which points out its $23.6M USD cost, only $11M USD of which came from a federal grant.
Even Mark Curran the Naperville director of electrical utilities admits that the meter rollout has taken "longer than we anticipated", after being fraught with technical delays.
Arrest photos of Jennifer Stahl (left) and Malia Bendis (right) [Image Source: Naperville PD]
Aside from finances, though, there appears to be a relatively strong luddite component of the group's campaign to block the meters. The group links to a number of speculative websites that compile information on the supposed "health risks" of smart meters. The commentary on one site (
) echoes the medically unfounded claims that similar campaigns have leveled
against cell phone towers
. Comments the site:
This is of great concern because the exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation from these meters is involuntary and continuous. The transmitting meters may not even comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "safety" standards ... However, those standards were initially designed to protect an average male from tissue heating (cooking) during a brief exposure. These standards were not designed to protect a diverse population from the non-thermal effects of continuous exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation. Therefore, these "safety" standards were not designed to protect the public from health problems under the circumstances which the meters are being used.
To date, there has been no comprehensive peer-reviewed work supporting the notion that Wi-Fi or cell phone signals cause cancer or other health effects, but that hasn't stopped critics from suggesting that undiscovered risks may indeed exist.
Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Board of Directors (L-R): Jennifer Stahl (Secretary), Kim Bendis (President), and Board Members Amanda Rykov, Lisa Rooney, Tom Glass
[Image Source: Naperville Smart Meter Awareness]
Despite the shaky science, one must wonder whether the city's strong-arm tactics are justified for citizens who don't want the meters. Ms. Stahl's arrest came at 4:30 when police invaded her backyard with the installation crew after cutting the bicycle lock she used on her fence gate. When police found Ms. Stahl standing in front of her old-fashioned "dumb" meter refusing to move, they arrested her and charged her with interfering with a police officer and preventing access to customer premises.
Ms. Bendis's arrest proceeded similarly. She was charged with attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer.
A defiant Ms. Stahl told reporters, "It was forced on my house today. It was really a violation. I violated something, but I’ve been violated too so I guess we’re now in a society of violating one another. I have not done the work of attempting to educate the community and advocating for the right of anybody in Naperville to refuse the smart meter just to stand off to the side."
Ms. Bendis declined to comment to reporters, citing advice from her lawyer.
Both women were released within hours. City Manager Doug Krieger defends the arrests, commenting, "The previous installation attempts were met with some resistance and we wanted to ensure our employees’ safety. The city has always had and maintains the right to access our equipment, and today we were simply exercising that right."
The Elster Rex2 smart meter (left) is being installed in homes, supported by wireless stations attached to poles and other infrastructure (right).
[Image Source: Naperville Smart Meter Awareness/Elster]
While the cost is one reasonable criticism against smart meter projects, another more ground criticism is security. Prominent sources, including defense contractor Lockheed Martin Comp. (LMT), have suggested that Chinese or other sophisticated
rivals of the U.S. could "hack into" smart meter networks
and use attacks to cripple or otherwise interfere with the U.S. power grid. If this premise holds true it would represent a tremendous new national security risk.
Another interesting criticism
comes from security researchers
[PDF], who report that smart meter data, if carefully analyzed, could reveal intimate details of one's life. For example, a house hooked up to smart water and electric meters could allow a third party to track when people shower, whether a home alarm is on, and how often people use their televisions.
Daily Herald [Naperville]
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1/24/2013 8:52:14 PM
Nothing you said is at all true.. Police have every right to be on your property, as long as they don't have to open a gate or door -- that's where reasonable suspicion comes in.
Also, utility companies are granted blanket easements to come on to your property in order to manage/maintain the service to you -- and if you have power, you certainly already signed a document stating such. Power is a commodity, not a right. If you don't allow them to have access to their equipment, they have every right to notify the police and have them escort the technician onto the property. I imagine what happened next is what caused those women to get arrested.
It may have been an overreaction, but as crazy as these women are against smart meters for no legitimate reason outside of initial cost -- I imagine they may have gotten a bit 'violent'.
1/25/2013 4:01:05 PM
You must not live in the US, everything I said was true in all 50 states. you are looking at this from an emotional opinionated perspective, I am looking at it from the realistic legal perspective.
Police ONLY have the right to be on private property WITH reasonable suspicion or property owners permission so long as a crime has not been committed. Otherwise just walking onto someones property is illegal. Typically if a police officer was on a property, there is reasonable suspicion but even then they still have their limitations. In this case it was the installers that were illegally on the property since they were obviously denied access and the cops arrested the wrong people. It doesn't matter their beliefs or if those of us technical people see them as a bit loony, laws are laws, and the installers should have been the ones arrested.
Utility company easements only cover reading, maintenance or repair of equipment on private property. In this case it was not reading, maintenance or repair so they had no right to be there without the property owners permission, and therefore the people installing it should have been the ones arrested, not the owner. Power companies need the property owners permission to access the equipment, if at any time they are denied access then they have no right being there. That is when they require written/typed paperwork that they submit to the owner requesting access to the property with the exact reason why, and what is to be done while on the property. If the owner still denies access then legally there is nothing the power company can do since the power meter and such are still in working order and there is no law that requires people to give up their rights just so the power companies can trespass whenever they want.
The problem is not what they believe or the resulting events, it is that their rights as private property owners was violated when they denied access to their property by the installers, yet they were allowed to force their way into the property and even wrongly got the people arrested. Denying access to the property is their every right as American citizens and property owners. The power company or contracted installers forcing themselves onto peoples property without their permission is a clear violation of so many statutes and laws in every state including IL.
This is when we really need lawsuits against these overbearing power companies so they know the boundaries and laws.
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