Johannesburg - The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) on Thursday called for a specialised copper theft unit, following three consecutive months of theft increases.

“Although the SAPS have done excellent work with practical legislative initiatives to curb copper theft thus far, this project needs to move forward by way of introducing a specialised copper theft police unit,” the chamber said.

The value of copper stolen increased to R15.4 million in May, according to Sacci's copper theft barometer released on Thursday.

It was R12.5m in April and R11m in March.

“The May figure is 71.1 percent higher than a year ago and the third consecutive monthly increase.”

“Recent incidents of copper theft that resulted in large-scale property damage and a variety of economic costs together with the upward trend in the barometer suggests that urgent policy response is required.”

The volume of copper stolen increased to 214 metric tons in May from 176 metric tons in April, and 153 metric tons in March.

The outlook for copper theft levels for 2014 was troubling, especially in view of recent high-profile incidents of copper theft that resulted in large-scale power outages and severe injuries, Sacci said. - Sapa