Kraaifontein a metal theft and illegal trading hot spot

Stolen metal confiscated from thieves.

Kraaifontein is one of six hot spots for metal theft and illegal traders, according to the City of Cape Town.

The others are Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Ocean View and Muizenberg.

“Cable theft continues to be a challenge and often the same suspects are arrested time and again,” said JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services.

He said Section 18 of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act of 2015 had given hope to authorities battling cable theft because it allowed for sentences of up to 30 years for people convicted of tampering with or damaging essential infrastructure.

“The additional powers under the Second-Hand Goods Amendment Act will now also allow our staff to act more decisively against scrap dealers,” he said.

Earlier this year, the police minister extended the powers of law enforcement officers to enforce the Second-Hand Goods Act – previously the preserve of SAPS.

Mr Smith said law enforcement could now work with the City’s Metals Theft Unit, which confiscated more than two tons of stolen overhead copper cabling in July.

In the first half of this year, the unit, also known as the Copperheads, did 787 inspections of scrapyards and bucket shops and made 33 arrests. They confiscated 139kg of brass, 21kg of heavy steel and 172m of copper streetlight cable.

Bucket shops are informal scrapyards usually run out of a home or a shipping container. The get their names from the buckets the informal scrap dealers originally used to weight metal.

With their extended powers, law enforcement can execute search warrants on properties, do search-and-seizure operations and seal off the premises of second-hand goods dealers found breaking the law.

“Metal theft is big business for some and a means for a quick fix for others. Either way, the City and others like Metrorail and Eskom are constantly targeted, often resulting in great inconvenience to communities and commuters,” said Mr Smith.

“We’ve already started using alternative materials, where possible, to deter theft of City infrastructure, but we’re still counting the cost.

“The Copperheads are doing good work, but again we are dealing with a problem that is not solved through enforcement alone.”

* Tips about metal theft or unscrupulous scrap dealers can be reported to 0800 222 771.