Cable thieves and vandals left a deep hole in the City of Cape Town’s pockets last year, costing the city just over R9m.
In a space of just six months, between July and December 2015, the City of Cape Town’s Electricity Services Department reported the second highest losses, with stolen or vandalised equipment costs totalling R9,165,775.
The Water and Sanitation Department recorded the worst loss R17,295,345 incurred through stolen water meters, water meter covers, and stolen or damaged manhole covers.
“The cost of this theft is not limited to repairing or replacing the infrastructure. In the case of our electricity network, theft also causes repeated blackouts, which affects local business and industry. The theft of manhole covers is also a major contributor to blocked sewers because inappropriate items can then enter the system more easily,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg.
“The theft of water meters and fire hydrants and the resultant leaks also contribute significantly to water losses. At a time when the region is experiencing reduced rainfall, we can ill-afford to waste a single drop. It is therefore especially important that residents act decisively against these criminal elements within their community.”
In an effort to curb these activities, the City has performed 618 inspections of scrapyards and bucket shops, and has started replacing stolen manhole covers with alternative materials such as ductile-iron and polymer plastic which have little to no scrap value. Because this theft is so pervasive, however, we would like to again call on residents to make a particular effort to keep an eye on this infrastructure, and contact the City’s Metals Theft Unit with any information they may have on any person or scrapyard they know to be involved in the stolen metals market.
It has also amended its Criminal Matters Act to create stricter provisions for the granting of bail and harsher punishments for those who willfully damage, tamper with, or steal essential infrastructure which may interfere with the provision of basic public services.
Additionally, the city has urged residents to assist by reporting theft or damage of public infrastructure to the City’s Metals Theft Unit.
Given the limitations of policing offences of this nature, the City is hopeful that the recent amendment to the Criminal Matters Act will help to deter prospective metal thieves. The amendments mean that there are now stricter provisions for the granting of bail and harsher punishments for those who willfully damage, tamper with, or steal essential infrastructure which may interfere with the provision of basic services to the public.
However, unless residents intensify their efforts to report these criminals, many will continue to operate freely and without consequence. With this in mind, the City would like to remind the public that there is an informant reward system in place for information that leads to the arrest of cable thieves or the recovery of stolen goods. Those with information are encouraged to come forward as it will help the City to ensure that public resources are not continually used on repairs or replacement of infrastructure because of the actions of a few self-interested individuals.