Thieves going after solar panels in South Africa — how to protect them

South African private security giant Fidelity ADT has warned homeowners about rising solar panel thefts.

In light of severe load-shedding in the past few months, an increasing number of households are investing thousands of rands in solar and battery backup systems.

In addition to helping them stave off power cuts, it can also reduce their electricity bills.

But according to Fidelity ADT’s head of marketing and communications, Charnel Hattingh, the company had observed that backup energy products had likewise become more appealing to criminals.

“Over the past few weeks, we have received reports of solar panels being stolen from properties, typically during the day whilst homeowners are at work,” said Hattingh.

Hattingh said it was important to make it as hard as possible for criminals to successfully carry out their plans on private property.

“As criminals continue to shift and change their patterns and behaviour, it is essential that homeowners keep up with trends and better ways to secure their homes,” Hattingh said.

Firstly, she advised homeowners to keep yards well-lit at all times and have proper barrier security installed.

The latter can include a combination of electric fencing, motion-detecting beams and motion-activated lights, burglar bars, and interior detection systems.

Motion-activated light beam. There are also units on the market powered by solar panels, which have also become prime targets for thieves.

Hattingh further recommended that homeowners lock their tools and garden equipment in a safe place.

“Don’t let your stepladder be the means by which criminals get onto your balcony or roof,” she said.

Those who have wheelie bins for disposing garbage should always bring them inside in the evenings.

“Never leave your wheelie bin out overnight as criminals not only use these to climb on, they also use them to transport stolen goods,” Hattingh explained.

In addition to the above, Hattingh also listed the following general tips for keeping your home — and solar energy system — safe from criminals:

  • Cut away excess shrubs and bushes, as this serves as a good hiding spot for criminals.
  • Always keep your alarm armed and use its different features — including various modes for various times of day or situations.
  • Join your local neighbourhood watch and street WhatsApp [or Telegram] groups.
  • Have visible armed response signage that can also serve as a deterrent.
  • Install quality CCTV cameras around your premises that will help police with investigations and deter opportunistic criminals.

Lastly, Hattingh said it was essential to remain vigilant and not leave anything to chance.

“If you see anything suspicious in or around your neighbourhood, report it immediately to your private security company and local Saps [police],” she said.

She also emphasised it was important to report incidents of crime to your local police station.

“Crime statistics help the police strategise and allocate the appropriate resources to suburbs, in conjunction with private security companies and other stakeholders, to protect lives by better managing crime, curbing trends and equipping the justice system,” Hattingh stated.

Charnel Hattingh, Fidelity ADT head of marketing and communications

Now read: Important steps for buying a safe and legal solar power system

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Thieves going after solar panels in South Africa — how to protect them