Electric security fences are to be installed at power substations in a desperate bid to put a stop to reckless scrap metal thieves.
CE Electric UK, the company responsible for delivering electricity to thousands of homes across the North East, decided to introduce the measures after recording a sharp increase in the number of raids.
The soaring global market value of copper, coupled with a thriving scrap industry in the region, is thought to be to blame for the rise.
Across the firm's network, which also covers Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, there were 81 reported break-ins in 2005.
By 2007, this figure had rocketed to 415.
In the past 18 months alone, three copper thieves have lost their own lives and seven more have suffered horrific injuries by raiding CE Electric UK's network.
On Wearside, there were 14 substation break-ins in the past year, with a further eight in Easington and nine in Durham City.
In a bid to deter thieves, the firm has invested an extra Å2million over two years on upgrading substation security.
The measures include installing electric fences that give a painful shock to would-be thieves, increasing the installation of CCTV cameras and using Smart Water, an indelible liquid that shows up under ultra-violet light and can be used as evidence in prosecutions.
The head of health and safety at CE Electric UK, Paul Norton, said the company is also urging residents to stay vigilant.
He said: "It's becoming startlingly clear that thieves are prepared to take ever greater risks to make a quick buck. They think nothing of putting their own lives on the line by breaking in.
"Our worry is now that, by leaving these tremendously dangerous sites open as they flee, it would be easy for any demob- happy youngster to wander in and get electrocuted.
"That's why we're asking parents to adopt their local substation, be vigilant and report any break-ins immediately to the police and to us.
"We are hoping that this Neighbourhood Watch approach may deter any would be copper thieves."
As part of its Stay Away - Stay Alive campaign, CE Electric UK reminds more than 60,000 children a year across the region never to enter substations.
Through a series of activities, the campaign aims to teach them how to identify electrical hazards and how to avoid them.
Central to the campaign is teaching children to recognise the "danger of death" signs attached to substations and pylons.