The business of copper theft is becoming more lucrative by the year and authorities are having a challenging time trying to stop it. File picture: Chris Collingridge/Independent Media
Cape Town - The business of copper theft is becoming more lucrative by the year and authorities are having a challenging time trying to stop it.

According to the City’s law enforcement, they have seen a significant increase in copper theft. Eighty-three arrests were made from January to December 2019.

The City’s Metal Theft Unit (MTU) targets hotspots like Bishop Lavis, Bloekombos, Claremont, Eastridge, Elsies River, Harare - Khayelitsha, Kalksteenfontein, Kensington, Kraaifontein, Kuilsriver, Lentegeur, Maitland, Manenberg, Nyanga, Newlands, Ottery, Philippi East, Ravensmead, Rondebosch, Salt River and Stellenbosch Arterial.

Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith said: “It’s not always smooth sailing. A key challenge is keeping track of cases once they’re handed over to the justice system.

"So, we are not able to say with certainty how many convictions there are as a result of the unit’s interventions.

"In addition, the unit receives numerous requests to escort and protect maintenance teams in high-risk areas. What it means is fewer planned operations for the Copperheads.”

Cable theft is known arguably one of the biggest threats to the local economy, safety and security. Apart from electricity disruptions, it also affects trains, internet access, CCTV networks and even clinics and libraries.

The most recent copper theft occurred last month, when the City’s law enforcement officers nabbed four men suspected of copper theft and drug possession.

Rail Enforcement and the MTU made the arrests after observing a well-known cable theft hotspot in Yellowood Street, Mitchells Plain.

“With copper selling for around R80 a kilogram, it’s easy to see why it remains such a big problem,” Smith said.

The Copper Company founder Shirley Hayes said: “Copper boasts several properties which make it the industrial metal of choice and it is one of the most traded commodities around the world.

"It is an ideal conductor, it is a base for alloys and it is 100% recyclable. Everything that has an on and off switch asks for copper.

“Copper is everywhere. In every house, building, vehicle, and electronic device.

"Thieves looking for copper won’t have a hard time looking for it. Copper pays a lot, meaning huge profits can be realised through copper theft,” Hayes said.

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Cape Argus