The City of Cape Town’s Electricity Department has experienced an increase in theft and vandalism at its substations and kerb-side metering kiosks in Mitchells Plain, Grassy Park, Philippi Farms, Ottery, Wynberg and other areas across the city.
Vandals and thieves appear to be intent on stealing the neutral bus bars, fuses and fuse holders from pavement electricity boxes. This causes irreparable damage, not only to the City’s equipment, but to appliances in the surrounding households and businesses which are served by that box or substation.
Vandalised boxes are a serious concern because over the years there have been incidents of death and serious injury caused by open boxes. Sadly, children playing in the vicinity of the exposed live wires are often the victims, suffering shocks, electrical burns or electrocution. The situation is particularly hazardous in wet or damp weather.
City Electricity Services advises consumers to have the electrical earth reading at their premises checked – a reading of less than 20 Ohms is preferable. This could alleviate the damage in the event of vandalism. Electricity Services is also ensuring that the boxes are secured and that the help-line number is prominently displayed.
The City has received a number of insurance claims for damage to electrical appliances due to this type of vandalism. The City’s Insurance Section will consider these claims, but reminds the public that the City’s liability is limited to acts of negligence or omission. Vandalism and theft are not usually covered. Residents are therefore advised to consider taking out their own domestic household insurance which would cover any loss that might occur on their property.
“However, the City is not insensitive to the damage caused by this recent spate of vandalism and will make every effort to prevent future damage. This includes ensuring that repairs to vandalised or stolen equipment are made as soon as reasonably possible after they have been reported, in order to mitigate against further damage,” said Alderman Justus, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services.
The City also has a designated law enforcement task team called the ‘Copperheads’ that deals with metal theft. This unit has been immensely successful in clamping down on stolen scrap metal dealers and curbing monetary losses resulting from the theft of City equipment.
The City appeals to the public to assist in curbing this recent spate of crime by reporting any suspicious activity in the vicinity of City electricity equipment, sub-stations or street boxes to the City’s Call Centre on 0860 103 089
“We are always grateful for any information received from the public, who are our eyes and ears. We encourage them to come forward with any information on this recent crime surge, so that we can take immediate action,” said Alderman Justus.