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Metal Theft Unit attacked as its arrest rate soars<p>The City’s Metal Theft Unit has seen a marked increase in arrests in this financial year.<br> <br>The unit, also known as the ‘Copperheads’, was established in 2007 to deal with the theft and vandalism of City infrastructure.<br> <br>Fourteen years later, the unit’s powers have been extended, and it plays a crucial role in addressing vandalism and theft of critical infrastructure belonging to other entities, like Prasa. <br> <br>In one of the latest successes, four suspects who were arrested, were linked to the theft of electrical and telecommunications cables near Freedom Farm yesterday, 19 May 2021, just off Stellenbosch Arterial Road.<br> <br>Officers responded to a complaint of cable theft in progress, but were attacked by a mob during the initial inspection. They called for assistance, and managed to apprehend one suspect with 118 kilograms of electrical cable in his possession. <br> <br>While on scene, officers noticed dark smoke emitting from the bushes abutting Freedom Farm, and upon investigation, found three men burning what appeared to be telecommunication cables. Officers arrested the trio and confiscated 371 kilograms of cable.</p><span> <figure class="subtopic-fullsize-img"> <img class="responsive" src="" alt="" style="width:1069px;" /> </figure><p>​​When returning to the area this morning, officers chased down a suspect in a bakkie. He managed to get away, but abandoned the vehicle in Freedom Farm. Officers found electrical cable in the vehicle (1st photograph), but were once again attacked by a group of people in the area.</p></span><p>‘This area is clearly a hotspot, and the crowd was extremely aggressive towards staff. Several City vehicles were damaged by stones thrown at them; however, if the attackers think this is a deterrent, they have another thing coming,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.</p><p><strong>YEAR-ON-YEAR COMPARISON</strong><br> <br>Between July 2020 and March 2021, the unit made 152 arrests, issued 2 800 fines and participated in 357 operations. They also conducted 1 620 scrapyard inspections.<br> <br>The bulk of arrests are in terms of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act of 2015, with others ranging from drug possession to reckless and negligent driving and bribery.<br> <br>During the same period in the previous financial year, the Metal Theft Unit made 59 arrests, issued 617 fines, participated in 184 operations and inspected 1 359 scrapyards.<br> <br>‘The increase in statistics year-on-year is commendable and speaks to the dedication and commitment of staff attached to this unit. They also received a boost with an additional ten officers deployed to the unit. During the hard lockdown, criminals had a field day, as usually bustling places of business and transit suddenly came to a halt, which saw a massive spike in metal theft and this too is reflected in the statistics,’ added Alderman Smith. <br> <br><strong>Among the items confiscated in the period under review, were:</strong><br> <br>•         236.5 kilograms of copper <br>•         620 kilograms of insulated copper wire<br>•         581 pandora clips (used to hold railway tracks together)<br>•         90 kilograms of Prasa signalling cable<br>•         74 paving bricks<br>•         1 imitation firearm<br> <br>‘The overall list is far more exhaustive and an indication of just how rife metal theft continues to be. This in spite of the legislative amendments in recent years, which allow for far harsher penalties for persons convicted. One is not convinced that the legislation is being fully exploited, and it remains unclear how much of the Metal Theft Unit’s efforts are paying off, since the City has no hand in the prosecution of suspects. But, our staff continue to do the best they can with the resources they have, and we encourage members of the public to do their bit and to blow the whistle on these crimes,’ added Alderman Smith.<br> <br>Incidents of metal theft can be reported via the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialling 021 4807700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline. <br> <br> <br><strong>End</strong><br></p>2021-05-19T22:00:00ZGP0|#1d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70;L0|#01d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70|City news;GTSet|#62efe227-07aa-45e7-944c-ceebacca891dGP0|#3367c564-b400-4256-bdef-d759b697fe4c;L0|#03367c564-b400-4256-bdef-d759b697fe4c|copperheads;GTSet|#2e3de6c1-9951-4747-8f53-470629a399bb;GP0|#b480eb1b-cfa8-45cf-ab3d-21f848f482e9;L0|#0b480eb1b-cfa8-45cf-ab3d-21f848f482e9|safety and security;GP0|#7813444b-fd85-4a32-bbad-c383fda2b8f1;L0|#07813444b-fd85-4a32-bbad-c383fda2b8f1|metal theft unit10

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