They caught residents by surprise as PECO crews moved in and began cutting illegal electric hookups.
At one home, the meter had been removed and the live power connection was covered only by a flap of plywood.
Two flimsy wires had been inserted to complete the circuit and supply free electricity to the home.
One of the residents in the home said "it was the landlord" who was stealing.
PECO records show the property owner had been stealing electricity at the home for the past three years.
The current tenants moved in last month with three young children.
Now, they're cut off because of an unscrupulous landlord.
They are not alone.
A dozen households on the block were getting free electricity.
They had tampered with the meters and some had spliced into power lines.
Downed power lines can kill and so can illegal splices that were found on some of the lines.
Another box had no meter and the live lines were exposed to the weather. The entire neighborhood was at risk.
"They're endangering not only themselves but their neighbors, their children, first responders who come out in case there's a fire, police officers, PECO employees," James Roscovich of PECO said.
The crews are out in the city every day disconnecting illegal hookups.
"This is a big problem for PECO. We investigate about 18,000 instances of potential theft every year," Ben Armstrong of PECO said.
Of those 18,000, PECO cuts off about 5,000 a year.
These are not people who are behind on their bills. PECO makes allowances for that. These are thieves who are putting their neighbors in danger, robbing from PECO and, by extension, taking money out of the pockets of honest customers.