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Vandalism and Theft and Its Impact on Capital Infrastructure and Service Delivery in the City of Johanensburg

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Theft and vandalism of municipal assets and infrastructure is rife with losses for the City of Johannesburg averaging R240 million annually severely hampering progress in service delivery and creating hazardous infrastructural challenges.

In a bid to curb this scourge, the City’s municipal entities Johannesburg Roads Agency; City Power, Joburg Water, Metrobus, Rea Vaya, Pikitup and Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) have spearheaded several intervention operations and plans to curb this scourge which has a dramatic and negative impact on service delivery to communities.

“Repeated theft and vandalism not only impedes on progress in service delivery and targeted completion dates on projects but it also jeopardizes public safety,” said JRA Acting Managing Director Mpho Kau.

Kau said the JRA sees annual losses of between R60 and R70 million as a result of vandalism and theft of road infrastructure and furniture with a further R10 million lost as a result of stolen road signage and traffic signals. JRA assets vandalised or stolen include barriers, guardrails, street name poles, steel grid inlets, steel reinforcements inside kerb inlets (KI) tops and fencing posts, traffic light cables, monitors and poles.

“Because of vandalism and theft, it has become unsafe for road users to walk or drive on our streets. Many lives are lost in traffic collisions and there are injuries coupled with facilities to pedestrians and motorists and some road users are mugged. Our bridges have become high risk areas for road users because hand rails, guard rails and other furniture that is meant to protect them has been removed. The millions that are used to repair and replace vandalised furniture should be used to improve service delivery within the communities,” said Kau.

In a bid to curb the issue, the JRA has placed several preventative measures in place to attempt to halt this issue including installing CCTV cameras and sensors to detect and respond to criminal acts of vandalism and theft; the piloting of an alternative material to copper cable; the replacement of KI covers from concrete and steel to plastic; and the launch of the JRA Infrastructure Protection Unit, a multitask team that has formed relationships with other government entities and the City’s various departments for intervention measures to curb the scourge.

Kau said a team of JMPD officers has also been deployed to the Unit to deal strictly with vandalism and theft. The Unit has an allocated fleet used for patrolling and conducting ongoing raids in the City Centre especially around identified hotspots where theft and vandalism is high. Kau said that despite a successful partnership with the JMPD, SAPS and private security companies that has yielded significant results in apprehending suspects, many arrested suspects were often released and cases struck off the roll due to insufficient evidence.

“For more successful preventative measures, communities and road users are invited to work together with the City by reporting all forms of vandalism and theft. Citizens are also encouraged to stand as witnesses in court for purposes of successful prosecution of criminals. Moreover, the JRA is appealing to scrapyard owners not to buy JRA or City assets. When approached with these items, scrap metal dealers are urged to report them to the JMPD or SAPS,” said Kau.

City Power Managing Director, Sicelo Xulu said the entity loses R100 million per annum in revenue due to illegal connections and a further R30 million in trying to prevent them. Cable theft further drives losses with conservative estimates costing the South African economy about R5 billion a year both directly and indirectly.

Speaking about vandalism and theft of timing devices on street lighting, 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. 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 Xulu.

In a bid to reduce incidences of theft and vandalism, City Power has embarked on a campaign to remove all illegal power connections across the City of Johannesburg; rolled out installations of the Remote Access Terminal which monitors tampering of pre-paid meters; installing aerial conductor cables (ABC) which have no resale value across the city of Johannesburg to prevent cables being stolen by cable thieves; laying concrete over areas where cables have been laid; increased community awareness campaigns and forged partnerships with JMPD and SAPS to patrol and safeguard assets and swoop in on unscrupulous scrap metal dealers who purchase the cabling from cable thieves.

“We are making progress in the war against cable theft and we wish to thank members of the community for working with us and providing much-needed intelligence to curb the scourge of cable theft. We appeal to the public to continue to be our eyes and ears so that we can rid our society of this cancer of cable theft which is costing the country dearly and hampering our ability to provide efficient service delivery to our communities,” said Xulu.

Another target for theft and vandalism is Joburg Water’s meters. Between January and December 2015, the City recorded a total of 5 836 stolen meters and in January 2016, close to 300 were stolen. Joburg Water spokesman David Sibiya said theft of meters cost the City R7 million in 2015

“There are approximately 100 000 old meters still in use in Joburg. These are targeted for theft due to the brass bodies they are made from. Joburg Water has therefore changed its meter specifications to phase out the brass body meters and replace them with plastic body meters which will therefore reduce the theft of meters in the medium to long term as old meters are replaced,” explained Sibiya.

Theft of water meters is a citywide problem with hotspot areas including Bezuidenhout Valley, Malvern and Cyrildene in the east; Westdene, Melville, Brixton, Crosby and Auckland Park on the western side; Robertsham, Turffontein, Eldorado Park and Ennerdale in the south; and Parktown and Bramley in Johannesburg’s north.

“Joburg Water has also stated working closely with the Community Policing Forum in Bezuidenhout Valley to apprehend thieves responsible. If this collaboration is successful, it will be rolled out in all problematic areas,” added Sibiya.

Johannesburg’s public transport systems are also



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