Over 1,7 tons of stolen metal recovered in Cape Town

Cable theft, particularly of street lights, remains a concern for the City of Cape Town. In a nine month period (July 2023 – Match 2024), the metro’s Law Enforcement’s Metals Theft Unit, also known as the Copperheads, recovered over 1 700 kilograms of stolen metal. Over 53 000 metres of stolen cabling was recovered over this period, with the unit also making 115 arrests, including securing a 12-year prison sentence for a metal thief.


The municipality says it is repairing and replacing stolen cables and vandalised street lights at record pace, with 1 120 street lights cable replacements in April 2024 alone. The City says what is worrying, is that as soon as officials repair the street lights, they are again vandalised soon after.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Alderman JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, joined the metal theft unit for a ride-along on Thursday.

‘’Our message to metal thieves is simple: don't steal cable, we will catch you. Last night in Mitchells Plain, I was pleased to see residents enthusiastically providing our metal theft officers with tip-offs of suspected stolen cable locations. We also witnessed our officers bust three suspects in the act of burning cables from a nearby traffic light. Those stealing cable should also know that the City's new Eye-in-the-sky is now watching and recording hotspots, including with infrared cameras at night,’’ said Geordin Hill-Lewis, Cape Town Mayor.

‘’The confiscations are an indication that we are not dealing with just small operators. In fact, some suspects are being caught with considerable amounts of stolen goods, and that leads to bigger questions about the level of organisation involved, but also the continued vulnerability of critical infrastructure. The City is throwing many resources at this problem, but we can't do it alone. Something has got to give at a national level, to tighten the screws on cable thieves, and take the shine out of the illicit scrap metal trade,’’ said JP Smith, Mayco Member for Safety and Security.

Authorities pleaded with the public to report cable theft. The City received 519 reports of metal theft from the public in 2023/24, compared to 304 in 2022/23. Over the past nine months, officials also conducted 1 715 inspections of scrapyards and bucket shops, and 2 145 hotspot patrols. A total of 10 vehicles were impounded, with 2 382 fines issued for various by-law transgressions.

To report cable theft, you can contact the City's 24-hour toll-free tip-offs line on 0800 11 00 77. Rewards are on offer for information leading to arrests and convictions of metal thieves.


Done By: Mitchum George


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