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Coppers and Robbers – A Game We Now Have to Play

So, it’s happened to all of us. We wake up in the early morning, ready for our first cup of coffee and either a) there is no water or b) there is no power or c) there’s a depressing lack of both. So of course, you are now swearing – a well curated and ever evolving arsenal of expletives forms South Africa’s 12th (unofficial) language, before pulling yourself together and making calls to plumbers, and ‘the powers that be’ (we use the term ironically, obviously, since there is such a lack of it these days). 

Copper theft, as disruptive as it is, may seem more a nuisance than anything else at face value but due to the knock-on effect of the breakdown on service delivery and infrastructure (especially in relation to the big parastatal players) it is estimated to cost South Africa close to R200 billion a year. Then, when you are adding this to our existing issues with loadshedding and other crime, it’s no wonder that we are navigating a struggling economy right now.

Nobody is safe from the threat of copper theft, from mines to private homes (we see you and that empty coffee cup buddy) to our big infrastructural companies, including the likes of Eskom, Transnet and PRASA. If you are in the mood for a stat that will make your eyeballs triple in size, it is estimated that Transnet and PRASA have had about 30 000 kilometers worth of copper infrastructure stolen right from under them. We could wrap that around the center of the globe and nearly make the ends meet in the middle (only a slight exaggeration).

So, why are we going on about this? Well, because we need your help. Our job is obviously to catch the bad guys doing bad things, and last week Thursday we did exactly that in the Effingham Heights area, and last year we attended 361 incidents of copper theft as well. But honestly, there is a lot of work yet to be done. Consider the following: there have been about 11 000 incidents of copper theft from parastatals (Eskom, PRASA, Transnet), a year for the last several years. However as few as 1200 copper cable thieves were arrested between 2019 and 2022, and of those only 40 were convicted.

Here’s more of what you need to know. The larger thefts are built around syndicates, which are sophisticated, organised, brazen and smart. But the smaller ones that affect you more directly are run by a couple of desperate thieves with nothing to lose, and honestly, that sort of incentive is just as dangerous, and damaging to our person and property as the former.

So, this is what you need to do:

  • If you are a victim of copper theft in any capacity. Please report it.
  • If you spot an instance that looks shady in your neighbourhood, please call us and we’ll come speeding by. Do not engage with the thieves yourself.
  • For your property, whether private or business, make sure you have a good perimeter fence (potentially electric) and camera surveillance – we can help with all of this.
  • Install bright external lights, motion sensor or otherwise, but let’s illuminate your vulnerable spaces (and bad guys).
  • Spread awareness and keep an eye on changing trends.

Cable theft is sadly here to stay in South Africa. The demand is too high, the ability to launder it quite easy and thieves are quite desperate, especially with the soaring unemployment. One must wonder though, if there was less theft, and damage to infrastructure, and therefore a more booming economy, would that unemployment concern be alleviated somewhat? While you ponder that, and finally manage to log your fault with Telkom, or Eskom, or the municipality (good job) remember, you can call us, In Case of Anything.

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