Cable thieves cut Milnerton street lights

Police arrested a 27-year-old Milnerton man for stealing street light cables along Marine Drive in Milnerton

A 27-year-old Milnerton man allegedly caught stealing street-light cabling along Marine Drive earlier this month will make a second court appearance this week, say police, as the community counts the cost of ongoing damage to key infrastructure.

In a meeting last week with City officials, Milnerton Central Residents Association chairman Bouwe van der Eems stressed the hazards caused by cable theft. He wants residents to submit proposals to the City on how to stop it.

“Stretches of lights on Otto du Plessis Drive have regularly been out for days or weeks at a time. These outages were reported by residents and the City repairs the lights. It does not last long, however, until the following outage occurs.”

The most recent outage, he said, had been along the Milnerton Lagoon near a pump station, but, fortunately, the theft had not knocked out the pump station.

He proposes using cables that have no resale value for thieves.

“That is why telecommunications with optical fibre are more reliable than telecommunications that use copper cables because optical fibre does not have second-hand value.”

Devices could also be used to detect cable theft and alert the authorities, he added.

“The police are too ill-resourced to address this problem. It could possibly help if security companies and neighbourhood watches are given some guidance on the cable theft hot spots so that they can increase patrols. This must be supported by a fast-response cable-theft unit from the City that can respond when alerted by local organisations. Such solutions should be developed by closer cooperation between local security organisations, law enforcement and the electricity department.”

Milnerton Community Police Forum chairwoman Jacqui Pember said police did not have the resources to be everywhere in the precinct at one time, but one solution could be more stringent policing of scrap-metal dealers.

“There are still too many who manage to operate under the radar and enable this theft to occur with impunity.”

Milnerton Neighbourhood Watch chairwoman Angela Chandler encouraged more people to join the watch to help with patrolling.

“We don’t have enough people to patrol the larger part of the area.”

The City said there had been daily vandalism to street lights and cable theft on the R27 for the past three months despite security guards patrolling hot-spots along an almost 20km stretch of road.

Mayoral committee member for energy Beverly van Reenen said the City had spent about R83 million in 2023 to fix and replace damaged infrastructure, including street cables.

It took nearly two weeks for a street light to be fixed, and, in many cases, the cables were stolen again within days of the repair.

“Load shedding is a major contributor and is making the situation even worse with the copper thieves or vandals having more time to strip the equipment while it is off and taking advantage of the cover of darkness. This has made a major impact on turnaround times to repair or replace infrastructure and restore power.”

City Law Enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said the City gave rewards of up to R5000 for information that led to arrests.

“Incidents of this nature must be reported when criminals are being witnessed busy damaging it, even anonymously. A quick response will assist to put these criminals behind bars. Inspections are done daily at scrapyards and bucket shops, which at times leads to the arrest of persons caught with vandalised infrastructure.”

Call 107, 0800 110077 or 021480 7700 to report incidents.