Cape Town - City of Cape Town Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said while the City recognised the national government’s efforts to bring to an end rampant cable theft, the move to place a six-month moratorium on the export of copper had not been as effective.
Smith was commenting on a recent incident in which a 33-year-old man was apprehended by law enforcement officers on the N1 outbound for damage to critical infrastructure.
According to Smith, the suspect was arrested while trying to flee from the scene of the crime after observant Law Enforcement officers on patrol noticed him digging a trench in the area of Lower Church Street in Woodstock shortly after midnight.
He said that when the officers stopped to investigate the freshly dug-up trench, the suspect stood up and took flight.
Officers chased the suspect and managed to apprehend him, bringing him back to the scene.
“It was then discovered he had already cut into and dug up a significant length of cabling. The 33-year-old male was arrested and handed over to Woodstock SAPS for further prosecution,” Smith said, adding that previously when the national government attempted to curb the wanton theft and vandalism of public infrastructure, a temporary six-month moratorium was placed on the export of copper.
“This ineffective limitation provided little relief as copper exports continued to soar. In the absence of effective legislation and proper regulations within the scrap metals sector, criminal syndicates continued to profit as municipalities across the country are left in turmoil,” he said.
“As the City attempts to defend against the illegal copper and scrap metals trade by such illegal traders, criminals have adapted against our enforcement efforts. Operations have been noted where it is moved off-site and where such bucket shops have taken on a mobile presence and instead meet criminals out on location to carry out the prohibited transaction.”
Smith also revealed that in an effort to protect some of the critical infrastructure in identified high-risk areas, the City of Cape Town was preparing to launch a dedicated Facility Protection Officers unit later this month.
The unit will reportedly comprise armed Law Enforcement officers and also include members of local neighbourhood watches and community safety initiatives, who will be directly integrated into the unit.
“While it becomes impossible to monitor every stretch of infrastructure across Cape Town, officers must be commended for their observant actions and their physical abilities that allowed them to chase down and apprehend the suspect.
“As we desperately await the national government to amend the regulations and impose worthwhile measures that will allow effective restrictions on the sale of second-hand goods, I applaud these members and those throughout our services that continue to defend the onslaught of criminals against our facilities and our public infrastructure,” Smith said.