File photo: Matthews Baloyi

Cape Town -

Properties are more vulnerable to criminal attacks and thousands of alarms are triggered when areas are plunged into Eskom’s load shedding darkness, security companies said this week.

They also said load shedding caused mayhem in their control rooms.

But provincial Eskom spokeswoman Jolene Henn said there was no evidence suggesting that crime spikes during power outages.

The beleaguered power utility this week again implemented load shedding countrywide.

Security companies, meanwhile, endure chaos when Eskom turns off the lights.

Alan Kusevitsky, head of City Bowl Armed Response (CBAR) and a regional committee member of the South African Intruder Detection Services Association (Saidsa), told Weekend Argus power outages were a “major headache” and drain on resources for security companies.

“It’s a real, absolute nightmare. It’s horrendous… We’ve got a control room monitoring thousands of alarms and billions of rand worth of assets,” he said.

Kusevitsky said load shedding affected thousands of clients and resulted in their alarms generating power failure signals.

These signals were picked up in security control rooms.

“From the thousands of power failure signals, we have to root out the actual alarm activations,” he said.

“If an intrusion happens and (the criminals) know what they’re doing, they go and trash the alarm system first.

“It’s mayhem in the control room.”

He said the reaction time of armed response officers was much longer during load shedding because of the high volume of alarm activations and because of traffic lights that were out.

The CBAR control room has an uninterrupted power supply source backed up by a generator.

Johan Hulme, co-owner of security company Bassett Burglar Alarms and who also serves on Saidsa’s Cape committee, said when there was load shedding staff were much busier.

“(There’s) an increase of overall activity for a security company from the control room being busy, armed response responding to many signals and technical staff being busier with service calls to replace depleted batteries and reprogramming the alarm system.”

Hulme said according to minimum Saidsa standards, armed response vehicles had 15 minutes to get to an incident.

But because Bassett served a local area in the northern suburbs, it had shorter response times.

He believed criminals were keeping track of load shedding schedules so that they could plan where and when to operate.

“Criminals use technology to keep abreast of what is going on. This is a job for them and they’re good at doing it.”

Sunday Argus