Reader report: Seen in Upper Morgan – meter reader? City said no but commenters say otherwise

12:19 PM: Out of the WSB inbox, from Cathy in the 39th/Morgan vicinity:

Shortly after 11:00 AM this morning I saw a guy in my neighbors yard, looking towards my window with some kind of binocular. As he was leaving the neighbors’ yard I yelled out to him asking him what he was doing. He said reading my electrical meter. He did have on a Seattle City Light shirt or vest, and a yellow hard hat. It didn’t seem right and I called the police (they still aren’t here 11:42). I called Seattle City Light and they confirmed, they DO NOT have anyone working in West Seattle today. They also had a similar call from someone on Ambaum earlier. I did not see a City Light truck in the alley or on the street. Keep your eyes open for this (person) and call 911. Black guy, early 30s, 6 ft or so, fit.

1:01 PM: See the comments, in which it’s noted that regardless of what the city said, there IS apparently meter-reading going on today …

34 Replies to "Reader report: Seen in Upper Morgan - meter reader? City said no but commenters say otherwise"

  • mp March 30, 2013 (12:31 pm)

    a person fitting this description just came by 37th and Morgan, reading meters in the backyard, heading south up hill on foot. Looking normal reading meters.

  • LTW March 30, 2013 (12:33 pm)

    This is creepy. I’m glad the writer questioned this man’s strange behavior and followed up.

  • yo March 30, 2013 (12:34 pm)

    I’ve seen a similarly described person months ago in the Morgan Jct area. In that case, he sure seemed like he worked for SCL. It was pouring down rain and was reading meters very quickly.

  • B March 30, 2013 (12:52 pm)

    Another meter reader in Seaview just now, but this was a white guy. Says his supervisor is in the area today as well, and that they’re working today because of they’re behind due to injuries.

    • WSB March 30, 2013 (1:00 pm)

      Thanks, all – I thought at least publishing this might bring out some other reports, whether “don’t worry, it’s really a meter reader” or not. – Will update to make sure those reading the blurb read the comments too … TR

  • mp March 30, 2013 (12:59 pm)

    you know, this sort of concern (whether its a prowler or a legitimate meter reader) wouldn’t even be an issue if Seattle City Light would simply get into the 21st century and upgrade its meters to read digitally. Legit or not, there’s no reason a stranger should be in my backyard uninvited. On a regular basis. This is not good for residents and it can’t be pleasant for SCL meter readers who have to face suspicion and dogs.

    • WSB March 30, 2013 (1:06 pm)

      Re: modern electronic meter reading …
      That is supposedly in the works – it came up, believe it or not, during the discussion of surveillance cameras – that Seattle City Light would be reading meters every 15 minutes when they go wireless … TR

  • Rod March 30, 2013 (2:06 pm)

    He came and read our meter today…and he’s the same guy who came around last time. He’s legit…has all the credentials. As our meter is behind a locked gate, he’s trying to get a different type of meter for us (which he brought up last time as well).

  • Junction mom March 30, 2013 (2:26 pm)

    I talked to the Seaview guy, he was very delibrate about alerting me to his presence, and that he was going in my back yard (I was in front with headphones), and considering the melee of boys playing back there, I really appreciated it. He was very quick so it all seemed right. I hope my intuition and all of your checking match up!

  • coffee March 30, 2013 (2:30 pm)

    Interesting, if CL goes wireless and does not need readers, how many jobs are lost? Do we then see any type of reduction in billing? Perhaps they could put those funds towards fixing their internal problems, i.e. getting an actual correct bill which I have had issues with for over a year, and even had 2 employees tell me there was a billing problem, but I should know that and I should know I have a bill to pay…

  • linda March 30, 2013 (2:33 pm)

    The age of paranoia……

  • iggy March 30, 2013 (3:18 pm)

    I saw the guy reading the meter on the parking strip in front of our condo at California and Frontenac on Saturday morning. He looked very legit in terms of demeanor, clothing, and equipment.. He wasn’t scoping out the neighborhood, just efficiently lifting up the metal meter lid and using his electronic device.

  • Morgan March 30, 2013 (4:23 pm)

    I am the original poster, glad to hear this most likely was legit. Strange that City Light told me no one was working in WS today, seems odd to be reading meters on the weekend? It was just too weird to be walking thorugh my dining room and having a guy in the neighbors yard right in front of my window, 8 ft away, seeming to be looking in with some type of binocular.

    Linda, I presume you are not a home owner. When there is a stranger (acting odd) in your neighbors yard, it’s cause for concern.

  • Diane March 30, 2013 (5:08 pm)

    why would it matter whether or not Linda is a homeowner?

  • WestSide45 March 30, 2013 (5:49 pm)

    From what I recall after talking with a friend who works for the city…the union representing the meter readers want nothing to do with automation because of job loss. If you think there’d be a reduction in rates because of less manpower needed, think again.

  • J March 30, 2013 (6:17 pm)

    I’m an owner, and my meter was read yesterday. I thought nothing of it. Orange and yellow vest, meter reading equipment, said hello and went about his job. It does seem like an archaic system though, doesn’t it?

  • James March 30, 2013 (6:31 pm)

    Shame on WSB for publishing this original email. This was an obvious city employee (yes, he was in our yard) and the publication of this paranoid e-mail does nothing but instill fear and ultimately degrade this wonderful neighborhood.

  • old timer March 30, 2013 (7:27 pm)

    There was a guy who matched the description who came to read my meter this afternoon. I was pulling weeds. He announced his presence and purpose clearly and went about his business so quickly that by the time I wondered if I should check on him, he was on his way out saying “Thank you” as he left.
    In the past, I’ve seen the readers riding along on segues and the binoculars allow viewing of multiple meters from one spot in selected locations.

  • jiggers March 30, 2013 (7:54 pm)

    I thought this was such an 80’s thing?

  • cathy jaramillo March 30, 2013 (9:44 pm)

    thank you WSB for keeping us apprised and updated. Your notes are very important to me and my family. It’s really the only way we’re aware of what’s going on in our neighborhood

  • Jim P. March 30, 2013 (10:21 pm)

    I’d side with the “paranoid” person. Doubts existed, the proper place was called and they denied they had staff working the area.

    Anyone can get a vest and hard hat and if you’re not used to seeing such people on a weekend (and I’d have been surprised also,) this sounds like exactly the correct thing to do along with contacting the police.

    City Light needs to tighten up its act though so as to know when it has people and where as this sort of thing can end up with their employee being held at gunpoint until police finally do arrive.

    I know *I* would not take kindly to someone prowling my backyard claiming to be a meter reader once the utility denied he was one of theirs.

  • m March 31, 2013 (12:19 am)

    A few years ago, I heard a loud noise in front of my neighbors’ house. I looked out my window and saw a woman with an orange vest vigorously shaking my neighbor’s gate. After a few moments, she walked down my driveway, unlocked the gate to my private courtyard garden on the side of my house and walked around to the back of my house by my rear sliding door. I went out to confront her and she told me in a sharp, indignant tone that she had to come into my garden to look over my neighbors’ fence to read their meter – they have a fenced yard and their dog was out. She said that city employees do that routinely if they cannot easily access a meter. She was wearing a city badge. I told her she did not have my permission to come into my garden anymore. She said that, in a case like that, the city would send a notice to my neighbors to work out a different plan for reading their meter in the future.

  • Jim March 31, 2013 (8:05 am)

    I agree with James.

    Black guy, early 30s, 6 ft or so, fit. Wearing City Light garb and hard hat. Watch out for him.

    I’m sure that makes his job much easier.

  • g March 31, 2013 (9:04 am)

    I wanted to add one thought:

    It seems completely reasonable to me to expect to not get any useful or accurate information when one calls a main line for SCL, and asks if they have a meter reader in your neighborhood at that very moment, especially on a Saturday.

    I would expect the same if I called Comcast or PSE.

    I have a hard time understanding how someone could expect to get accurate information. It seems naive.

  • Twilight Zone March 31, 2013 (11:56 am)

    I’ve said this before and it will probably be deleted, but I think this blog fans the flames of paranoia to increase readership, and that this post is a classic example. I think it was incredibly irresponsible to suggest that a City employee might actually be a lurking criminal before getting all the facts straight. If I were that guy, and read this blog and post, and the incredibly paranoid comments that are regularly seen here, I would have immediately requested reassignment to another neighborhood because of very real concerns for my safety.

    It reminds me of one the first Twilight Zone episodes, where aliens shut off all power to a neighborhood and the people who live there then accuse neighbor after neighbor after neighbor of being an alien, until the real aliens conclude that they won’t need to invade because we Earthlings will destroy ourselves through fear and paranoia eventually anyway. I’m not quite that cynical, but for me anyway, the most frightening things I ever see in this blog are some of the tin foil hat, run for the hills, the end is near, comments I read here. And this kind of ‘news report’ only feeds that mentality.

    Get a grip folks, we live in the safest era in the history of humankind and the real danger is the fear that lives inside you, not the bogeyman you see hiding behind every tree and corner.

    • WSB March 31, 2013 (12:44 pm)

      “Twilight,” while we appreciate and learn from constructive criticism, in your case, you’ve been attacking us for years, under a variety of aliases, except for the one time you had a story to tell and something to sell, and we treated you fairly anyway, because that’s how we roll. Because you are again daring me to publish your latest bash-WSB comment, I am doing so just to let you know we know. You have said you no longer live in the area, so I can’t imagine what you’re doing here beyond trying to find an excuse to bash us.
      Anyway, since someone else honestly and genuinely raised the point, here’s our response:
      Hindsight, the cliché goes, is 20/20. Probably even clearer. WSB has been a community-collaborative news source since its inception – which itself stemmed from community collaboration, when community members weren’t getting the information they needed after the 2006 windstorm and asked us, at the time publishing more of an opinion site, what we knew. We spent the following week – which was supposed to be my pre-Christmas break from my then-TV news management job – trying to find out. In the ensuing almost-six years as a business, WSB has evolved into a unique mix of award-winning bust-our-ass-to-get-the-story-and-get-it-right traditional journalism and “a community member asked to share this” reports from crime to high-school baseball updates (that aspect of our operation is award-winning too, honored with the 2010 Online News Association national award for Community Collaboration and the regional Society of Professional Journalists 2011 award for Online Engagement). But even the traditional journalism starts, as it does in news outlets big and small, with a community tip (example: we broke the surveillance-camera story because people messaged us to say “what ARE those cameras for?” and we set out to find out).
      When this came in yesterday, I had a decision to make and I made one. The report was: Someone suspicious, and the city implied it was an impostor. What might do the least harm? Publish it and it turns out to be wrong – or not publish it and somebody gets broken into because as the city implied, impostors are out and about? Despite what the city said, people quickly came forward to say, hey, there are crews out and about, they’re legit. I’m glad that happened, and we all learned something: The city operators apparently don’t always know when they have crews out. This is how community-collaborative news works sometimes. The other day we published a stolen-car report. Police took a report on the car and even tweeted it in their auto-theft channel. A neighbor saw our report and commented that the car had a notice on it and was towed. From this, we learned that police apparently don’t get the info when a car is towed – or don’t have a way of cross-referencing. And the owner learned what had happened to their car – who knows how long it might have been till they’d been notified by the city, or tow company
      Getting back now to today’s news, community-collaborative and otherwise. Thank you (to those who are sincere, whether in criticism, support, concern, etc.) – Tracy

  • West Seattle Since 1979 March 31, 2013 (12:15 pm)

    mp, the only thing about digital reading is that those people would lose their jobs. They might be happy not to be suspected constantly, but it wouldn’t make up for being jobless in this economy.

    Morgan, I rent and I’d be creeped out by someone sneaking by my apartment window or the backyard of my apartment building or the one one next door, if I didn’t know they have legitimate business being there. Apartments get burglarized too.

    And yes, better to be a little paranoid and careful.

  • WSB lover March 31, 2013 (3:42 pm)

    WSB, you rock and I love you guys. Can’t be more clear than that.

  • West Seattle Since 1979 March 31, 2013 (5:05 pm)

    WSB, you do a great job!

  • Bob H March 31, 2013 (6:39 pm)

    Thank you WSB for publishing these kinds of things. Yes we, individually and as a community, are paranoid about some things and lax about others, but information and communication are our best weapons for a safe and enjoyable neighborhood. Criminals will try anything and to find someone on your property, legit or not (certainly unannounced), is enough for most of us to be suspicious and want to let others know. Thank you to Cathy the emailer too.

  • West Seattle HIPster March 31, 2013 (7:47 pm)

    Knowledge is power, thanks for keeping us updated on our community.

  • Jim March 31, 2013 (9:40 pm)

    Before you ask what might do the least harm you at least need to talk to the guy who was the most affected. It seems to me that the journalistic part of the equation is to get the facts straight before publishing the reader’s post, not after.

  • Pixie B March 31, 2013 (10:55 pm)

    The meter reader here in the 35th and Holden area always rings the bell to see if the dog is out in the yard as we have beware of dog signs posted. He then will use binoculars to read the neighbor’s meter as there are dogs there also. I appreciate this courtesy and can tell when a replacement or new person is assigned to our block, as they just enter the yard and take their chances. (However, if they would walk down the alley, they could use the binoculars to see the meter from the back fence…. must be a rule about not going down the alleys.)

  • Kim April 1, 2013 (12:39 pm)

    WSB- you can’t please everyone…don’t listen to the haters! :) You guys do an amazing job. I always appreciate the notices, whether they turn out to be benign or not. Please keep up the good work. 99% of us appreciate it!

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