Cape Town cable thieves busted — what the damage they cause looks like

The City of Cape Town announced that its metro police department has made 100 arrests in five months for crimes that were first picked up on its extensive CCTV camera network.

Among these, eight people were arrested for cable theft, compared to a total of 13 for the entire 2020, which the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security Alderman JP Smith said was thanks to an increase in the number of camera installations.

“The Metro Police Strategic Surveillance Unit (SSU) oversees nearly 850 CCTV cameras across the metropole, excluding cameras monitoring the freeways and transport routes and interchanges,” said Smith.

He stated these have played an important role in the early detection of criminal behaviour and enabled the department to respond faster when criminal activity was detected.

“Officers are often able to catch the criminals red-handed because of an alert by the CCTV control room, preventing further damage to infrastructure.”

The copper used in electric cables throughout the city is a prime target for thieves, who steal and sell it to recyclers.

Smith said the city’s fight against cable theft was ongoing, and the crime’s impact was far-reaching.

“Criminals do not see the families who are left without electricity, they have no sympathy for the students who cannot study after cable theft disables computers and they clearly have scant regard for the lives and livelihoods that could be lost because of exposed wires or the impact on public transport or otherwise affected infrastructure,” he stated.

“From January to May this year SSU detected 72 cable theft incidents in the CCTV footprint compared to the previous year where 92 incidents were detected during the same time frame.”

“Most of the incidents occurred in May when 23 were detected, which is an exponential increase compared to the previous year when three incidents were detected,” Smith added.

Below are images of cable theft incidents in Cape Town over the last few months.

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Although incidents occurred throughout Cape Town, the hotspots for cable theft included Belhar, Manenberg, Khayelitsha and Woodstock.

“Most incidents occur on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday with the highest frequency of incidents is occurring during 18:00 to 21:00 and 00:00 to 03:00 during the night,” the city stated.

Alderman said this showed cable thieves typically operated at times when they thought no one would be watching.

“Knowing big brother is watching may deter some thieves and extends our enforcement footprint,” Smith added.

The city said its recorded footage can also be shared with SAPS for further investigations, providing an unbiased look at incidents where there may not be any other information or witness accounts.

To ensure the integrity of the footage for possible use as evidence, strict measures were in place to preserve the chain of custody in the handing over of footage.

The city asked residents to report vandalism of city infrastructure to the City’s Call Centre or cable theft tip-offs to the Metals Theft Unit control room on the following numbers:

  • City’s Call Centre – 0860 103 089 or 021 480 7700
  • Metals Theft Unit – 0800 222 771 or 021 400 2828

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Cape Town cable thieves busted — what the damage they cause looks like