Cable theft remains a serious headache for authorities and residents of Johannesburg.
This is according to spokesperson for City Power Isaac Mangena.
The City, including many other parts of the country, have for years been battling this scourge where crucial electricity infrastructure is either stolen or vandalised, plunging many into darkness for days.
Speaking to The Citizen, Mangena said they have seen a spike in incidents of this nature across the city.
According to Mangena, the headache is also compounded by the dreaded load shedding crisis which does not seem to have an end in sight.
The country has been plunged into stage 6 load shedding “until further notice”, said Eskom this week.
ALSO READ: Eskom to implement stage 6 load shedding nightly until further notice
“During load shedding criminals become very active, in fact every time we issue a schedule for load shedding, criminals also get hold of the very same schedule and under the blanket of darkness, they dig and dig with no threat to their safety.
“We have had load shedding for 12 consecutive days,” said Mangena.
Mangena said they are dealing with an organised syndicate, stressing that it not just naughty boys but a syndicate that is well armed and well resourced that is stealing cables.
Traffic lights are also being targeted
Mangena says it is not only traffic lights that have been targeted but streetlights too and that in some cases, there has also been acts of sabotage as people would just cut off poles without taking.
ALSO READ: WATCH: JRA condemns destruction and theft of traffic lights infrastructure
Mangena says some of the hotspot areas where street lights were vandalised include the Golden Highway and Malibongwe towards Lanseria.
“This is indeed worrying and we need police intelligence to prevent or minimize these acts of criminality on our electricity infrastructure because there is video footage available and that should be used to go after the criminals,” Mangena said.
How much is cable theft costing the City of Johannesburg?
Mangena says load shedding has just made things even worse.
“With load shedding, we lose around R3.6 million daily and its even worse when we are experiencing higher stages of load shedding due to equipment failures and the theft that happens during that time.
“We are losing around R2 billion annually,” Mangena said.
Cable theft hotspot areas
Mangena says Roodepoort is fast becoming a hit, with 25 incidents of cable theft already recorded since the beginning of this year.
“In recent days, we were told four mini substations were also vandalised and each one of those will cost R700 000 to replace,” said Mangena.
Almost 165 arrests have been made across the city since last year, largely due to the security and essential task team that was put together by the office of the President.
ALSO READ: Six arrested for cable theft in Joburg
“However, more needs to be done particularly on the prosecution side….an example need to be made so that others who are planning to engage in such criminal activities should think twice.
“Scrapyards are also problematic because they receive most of the cables with impunity and don’t bother to return them back…Laws need to be tightened around scrapyards because if criminals don’t have anywhere to sell, they will think twice before stealing cables,” Mangena added.
Spokesperson for the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) Xolani Fihla says cable theft is a big problem across the City of Johannesburg.
With regards to traffic lights that have been targeted recently, Fihla says it is not something new as they have been targeted for the longest time, especially the traffic controller boxes.
“With cable theft, vandalism of traffic lights and loadshedding, JMPD added extra focus to assist with the fast-growing traffic congestion caused by these factors.
“Load shedding has made it easier for criminals because they take advantage of the darkness to commit this crime,” said Fihla.
Fihla said the JMPD established an Infrastructure Protection Unit (IPU) which works closely with other relevant stakeholders such as SAPS, City Power and Eskom to deal with this prevalent scourge.
Meanwhile, police expert Dr. Hennie Lochner says any right-minded person should realise that this type of crime only has to do with the economic worth of it.
He says the South African Police Service (SAPS) is no longer reversible because the ship has run aground, stressing that everyone warned that the ship was headed for the rocks but no one listened.
Lochner said the cables that are stolen are not used in new buildings or new traffic lights or overhead power cables that power electric trains.
“Nor does it lie and rot in landfills, but it is sold as scrap, either processed or not.
“It is an internationally accepted fact that when pro active policing fails, reactive policing comes into play,” said Lochner.
He says there are two important aspects linked to crime prevention and they are visible policing and intelligence.
“Intelligence is a very complex aspect and I am always surprised when police officers, persons in metropolitan cities responsible for security or policing and ministers use the term so irresponsibly.
“When do you reveal your ignorance, when you talk too much too fast and intelligence is the product of processed information and this is linked to the crime intelligence process,” he said.
According to Lochner, if one understand and apply the processes, then they will be able to fight crime.
“I wonder if the minister of Police Bheki Cele, who is also called a general (hope it is for his ability to police and not for pension purposes) knows what intelligence and intelligence process is all about.
“Part of crime prevention is being visible and patrolling is a science and an art and the thug is not afraid of being arrested but rather of being seen…Now when you drive next to a police vehicle, you’ll realise that everyone is on the cell phone except the driver,” Lochner said.
How important is discipline in the police service?
“Check out the flags hanging in front of a police station, most of them are in a battered condition and it comes down to discipline.
“If we can’t maintain discipline, how are we going to prevent crime and experience is also an issue. Crime has no color except when it is about it…for example theft is the unlawful taking or appropriation of property that does not belong to you with the aim of taking it permanently from the owner,” Lochner said.
How to deal with crime?
According to Lochner, the right people need to be appointed.
“What do the police want to say to the public when they state that more detectives are being hired to investigate crime, when we know that when proactive crime crime fails, reactive crime comes into play…isn’t that laughable?
“Investigation of crime is a search for the truth and you don’t become a car mechanic in a year, it takes time for one to gain the necessary experience.
“Training is not the golden egg in the case of investigation, but experience is an important aspect,” Lochner said.
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