Millions down the drain due to theft

Staff Reporter

The theft of utilities infrastructure, including everything from wheelie bins to manhole covers, has cost the City more than R30m between July and December, last year.

The City has condemned the wide-scale theft and says it can only tackle the problem with residents’ support.

The water and sanitation department was worst hit with losses of R17 295 345 from stolen water meters, water-meter covers, and stolen or damaged manhole covers across the city.

The electricity services department reported the second-highest losses, with stolen or vandalised equipment costs of R9 165 775, while the solid waste management department reported that 8 657 bins, at a value of R4 895 534, had been stolen.

In a statement, the City said it had done more than 600 inspections at scrapyards and bucket shops and was 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,” said Ernest Sonnenberg, mayoral committee member for utility services

The cost, he said, wasn’t simply limited to replacing stolen 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.

“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.”

The City welcomed an amendment to the Criminal Matters Act allowing for 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,” said Mr Sonnenberg.

The City pays informants for information that leads to the arrest of cable thieves or the recovery of stolen goods. The public can report cable theft to the metals theft unit, commonly known as the Copperheads, at 0800 222 771 or 021 400 2828.