The Cape Navigator

Seaside Community Newspaper

Cape Town, Crime

Cape Town Metal Theft Unit Recovers 53 Kilometres of Stolen Cable

Michael Hawthorne

In a resounding victory against the escalating issue of metal theft, the City of Cape Town’s Metal Theft Unit, popularly known as the ‘Copperheads,’ has successfully recovered a staggering 53 kilometres of stolen cable during the first six months of the current financial year (July to December). The recovery comes amidst a surge in arrests and complaints related to metal theft, demonstrating the relentless efforts of the unit to combat this pervasive criminal activity.

During this period, the Metal Theft Unit executed a total of 404 autonomous operations, conducted 1,260 scrapyard inspections, carried out 1,777 hotspot patrols, and responded to 277 complaints from the public. Their proactive initiatives resulted in 83 arrests, marking a significant 34% increase compared to the corresponding period in the previous year.

In addition to the arrests, the unit successfully impounded eight vehicles and issued 1,557 fines for various by-law transgressions, showcasing their commitment to enforcing legal measures against those involved in metal theft.

Alderman JP Smith, the Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, commended the unit’s unwavering dedication despite the evolving tactics employed by metal thieves. Smith emphasized the challenges posed by cable and metal theft, stressing the well-documented impact on services, the economy, and the budgets for repairs and maintenance within affected departments.

Smith stated, “The strategies of metal thieves are constantly changing, with new trends every few months, which require counter strategies and a unit that is nimble enough to change direction where needed. While it would be unwise to reveal the particulars of our playbook, we are already using existing tools like our integrated policing incident system to help map hotspots, for example, and we are always on the hunt for existing or new tech solutions that aid our enforcement efforts in this area.”

Among the notable achievements of the Metal Theft Unit between July and December 2023 were the successful conviction and four-year sentence of a suspect under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act at Parow Regional Court in July. Additionally, in August, two suspects were apprehended for tampering with essential infrastructure, and a significant seizure of 38 rolls of copper cables, weighing approximately 232kg with a street value of R30,000, was made in Elsies River.

The Metal Theft Unit’s collaborative efforts with private security personnel led to the arrest of six suspects in possession of metal and cable theft implements in Mitchells Plain in September. Another success story unfolded in Kraaifontein, where four suspects were arrested with more than R120,000 in cash and nearly 400 kilograms of burnt copper.

Residents are encouraged to report cable theft to the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialling 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline. The proactive engagement of the community remains vital in the ongoing battle against metal theft in the City of Cape Town.


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