Why criminals are breaking Joburg street lights

City Power says that vandalism of street lights in Johannesburg is an act of economic sabotage against the law-abiding ratepayers.

“The rampant damage, cable theft and vandalism of timing devices on street lights is derailing ongoing efforts to save electricity and it costs the City Power millions of rands every year to replace this equipment,” City Power said in a statement on Monday (7 September).

It noted that the street lights across the city have been fitted with timers that switch the lights off during the day and turn them on when it becomes dark. However, in the last few months, the timers have been a target of deliberate damage, which has led to the lights illuminating throughout the day and night.

City Power said that this enables criminal syndicates to use these circuits for illegal connections.

This, City Power said, has drastically reduced the normal lifespan of the light bulbs which need to be replaced constantly and hampered efforts to curtail electricity consumption.

The widespread vandalism of electricity infrastructure impacts negatively on the security of the neighbourhoods and provision of quality service delivery to the residents of Johannesburg, it said.

“These criminal acts hamper our efforts at providing quality service to the residents of Johannesburg and are costing the law-abiding ratepayers dearly. The theft and vandalism of public lighting infrastructure is not a victimless crime, but it is an act of economic sabotage against the law-abiding ratepayers of Johannesburg,” said Sicelo Xulu, MD of City Power.

The theft of and damage to timers exacerbates the power shortages we are facing as daytime illuminating street lights exert unnecessary pressure on the grid that is already constrained, the MD said.

Xulu said infrastructure theft and vandalism has a disruptive effect on the economy and public life and contributes to increased tariffs and prices for ordinary South Africans.

Besides the cost of replacing the stolen cable and damaged equipment, it interferes with the delivery of other essential services. Cable theft is conservatively estimated to cost the South African economy about R5 billion a year directly and indirectly.

Xulu said that City Power also welcomes the proposed changes to the Criminal Matters Amendment Bill 2015 which seeks to impose more stringent sentences to suspects convicted of cable theft.

City Power said it is looking at the development of technological solutions that will curb the theft of timers and other electricity infrastructure.

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Why criminals are breaking Joburg street lights