by Mishkah Anthony
20 March 2009
The City of Cape Town’s metal theft unit, Copperheads, has caught nine suspects stealing thousands of rands worth of railway property in Netreg, near Bishop Lavis.
The unit was tipped off after one of its officers spotted the men removing the heavy metal fence poles next to the railway line in broad daylight.
“Inspector Ezekiel Kiewiets was on a routine crime prevention patrol in the area, when he noticed the men uprooting the poles,” says Councillor Pieter van Dalen, Chairperson of the Copperheads.
Inspector Kiewiets immediately called his colleagues and the SA Police Services for backup. As soon as they arrived on the scene, the suspects fled in all directions.
The police immediately gave chase, and caught a 17-year old youth with two of the poles in his possession. They then followed a getaway car to a house in Netreg and arrested another eight suspects.
“This was the first successful joint operation between the Copperheads and General Nyanda Services, which has been contracted by Transnet to focus on the theft of railway property. We are now busy training GNS staff,” says Van Dalen.
According to him, gangsters in Bonteheuwel and Netreg are targeting fencing poles at railway stations, which are then sold for scrap to fund their drug addictions.
“These three meter long poles weigh 100 kg each and are planted about one meter deep into concrete. During the past two days, 300 of the poles have been stolen. The Copperheads and GNS have since recovered 108 of these at a bucket shop in Bonteheuwel, and the owner has been taken into police custody,” he says.
A contractor employed to remove the poles and to put up palisade fencing at Bonteheuwel and Netreg stations, was even threatened by gangsters to hand over the poles to them. Anybody found with the poles will be arrested and charged for being in possession of stolen goods.
Councillor van Dalen urged the public to continue calling the Copperheads’ toll-free hotline on 0800 222 771 with any tipp-offs.