Community and Charity

"Copperheads" Get Creative To Try to Stop Vandalism to Infrastructure

During the first week of December 2013, thieves tunnelled into the Brackenfell Depot’s store yards. They dug their way underneath the high security fencing and lifted the paving to gain access. They stole 60 metres of copper cabling to the value of approximately R20 000.

Between 16 and 29 December 2013 various incidences of theft and vandalism occurred in Mfuleni. An estimated 230 kg of copper was stolen. It is thought that a syndicate is possibly operating in this area. This is costing the City more than R500 000 to repair and to safeguard the cables from future theft or vandalism. Two of these incidents saw the theft of personal belongings from the security guards employed to safeguard the sites, while another included an armed robbery where security guards were forced to dig up cables at gun point. These cases have been reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS).

‘The millions of Rands that the City spends on fixing damaged electricity infrastructure caused by theft and vandalism impacts on our efforts to ensure the highest level of service delivery to our residents. This money could have been spent on additional service delivery. The level of theft and vandalism is simply deplorable. We need residents and communities to work with us to combat theft and vandalism,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg.

In Lansdowne Road alone, repairs resulting from illegal street light connections between 21 January and 22 March 2013 cost approximately R3,6 million.

In an attempt to combat vandalism and theft on the street-lighting networks, the City has started replacing copper cables with aluminium cables. Cables are being laid deeper than normal and are being encased in concrete. Pole covers have been welded closed and control boxes have been pole-mounted as opposed to ground-mounted, making access more difficult. In areas where vandalism and theft is particularly rife, the City has started keeping the lights on day and night as this is a deterrent to criminals.

A prototype substation building alarm system, which incorporates CCTV cameras, access control and remote monitoring, is also being tested. If successful it is expected to be rolled out to all medium-sized substation buildings.

In 2012 the City’s Electricity Services Department initiated a proactive public lighting repairs programme in the Khayelitsha area. The net result of this work was that the burning rate in major parts of Khayelitsha improved from approximately 30% to approximately 90%.

Within six months, only 35% of these lights were working.

In some areas illegal electricity connections overloaded the electricity supply system, and significant vandalism rendered many of these lights inoperable. In one instance alone, cables were stolen twice by vandals digging up tar.

Residents across the city have also suffered damage to their electrical appliances from voltage surges experienced as a result of vandalism to electricity infrastructure. Cases of damaged electrical appliances have been reported city-wide.

‘We will not give up in our endeavours to ensure a high level of service delivery in Cape Town but we also need residents, communities and the SAPS to work with us. I appeal to anyone with information on the culprits to contact the City’s Metals Theft Unit,’ said Councillor Sonnenberg.

The City urges the public to report any cases of theft or to provide information on the culprits to the City’s Metals Theft Unit (commonly known as the ‘Copperheads’) on 0800 222 771.

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