I'm getting pretty tired of seeing extension cords snaking through parking lots and parking garages.
I don't think the issue here is just five cents; some places can't handle the capacity this puts on their systems or wiring, or perhaps they don't want the liability of you screwing up your car thanks to faulty wiring, and suing you for it. And hell, what if some bright person uses a cord that's too light of a gauge for the current, and ends up starting a fire or hurting someone?
Charging should be done where appropriate, not wherever anyone wants.
Saying this as an owner of a car that gets plugged in, I totally agree. Stealing power is stealing power. Common sense says if you aren't paying the bill on that outlet, you ask whoever is paying for it before you plug in, you don't assume its okay.
That's good for a couple of reasons. It avoids situations like this (and this isn't, by any means, the first time its happened), and it also gets the discussion about charging going... lots of places will tell you no problem. Places that don't may or may not have legitimate concerns about it. Considering how many times I've popped breakers with my charging cable, its entirely reasonable for places to say no. This isn't plugging in a cell phone charger, its plugging in a device that nearly maxes out a typical residential circuit.
The thing that is stupid about this article isn't that the police considered it theft (it absolutely, unequivocally is), but rather that the police arrested someone for the theft of something worth so little. I could *almost* see a justification if the guy was arrested on the spot because the officer didn't know the electricity was worth so little, but after a few days of "investigation", it should've been obvious that the amount falls well below the lower limit of what people are arrested for where theft is concerned.
IMO, the guy who plugged is car in is the jackass in this -- its because of people like him that people who actually *ask* run into problems.