Cape Town-140416. The City of Cape Town's Metal Theft Unit carried out a few raids or operations in various parts of the peninsula today. These youths were apprehended near the N2 for melting the plastic from the copper wire and were asked to put out the fire. The leader was then fined for causing air pollution.This wire was not confiscated. reporter: Chelsea Geach. Photo: jason boud

Cape Town - Left in the dark repeatedly – and Eskom is not to blame.

Kensington and Factreton residents are moving to establish night patrols after being left without electricity seven times in the past three months due to cable theft.

Kenfac Residents’ Association member Mark Viljoen said the frequent and unpredictable power cuts were wreaking havoc for local businesses – and chewing a hole in the city’s pocket.

“In the past month I got two phone calls from business owners who could not trade because of cable theft. They had to shut down their businesses,” Viljoen said.

“It’s catastrophic not only to the community, but the government as well. The city only has limited resources, and those are being used up by theft.”

According to Neil Arendse, head of the city’s metal theft unit, a typical repair to a section of stolen cable costs upward of R20 000 – and that’s only for the 11 000 volt cabling, not labour costs.

Arendse said current hot spots include Kensington, Factreton, Zevenwacht, Phillippi farms, Wetton, Bokmakierie and the Strand.

The unit, also known as the Copperheads, has in conjunction with police closed down two illegal scrap dealers in the Kensington area.

“Scrapyards bring an increase in cable theft because there’s a demand for it,” Viljoen said.

But while cable theft drops when scrap dealers are closed down, there is a spike in wheelie bin theft, as thieves use the bins to move scrap to the next closest dealer in Maitland.

“Wheelie bins are used as a transportation mode to move stolen goods,” Arendse said.

He said the Copperheads were about to launch a campaign targeting wheelie bin theft.

Three weeks ago, they arrested a security guard employed by solid waste management in Woodstock for stealing wheelie bins.

“The axle of the wheelie bin is metal, and they break it up to get at the metal,” Arendse said.

“We are going to confiscate wheelie bins anywhere we find them not in possession of homeowners. It must not be off their property.”

Bins costs from R380 to R450 depending on size.

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Cape Argus