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Cable theft rampant

Netreg train station in Bonteheuwel has been identified as a hotspot for cable theft.

Two weeks ago a video circulated on social media of a man who was electrocuted moments after attempting to steal cables at Netreg.

In a separate incident at the same station on Tuesday 19 November, law enforcement officers recovered approximately 160 metres of overhead copper cable.

Law enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason says its Rail and Metal Theft Unit received a tip off.

“On arrival it was reported to the officers that five suspects who were engaged in the theft had already left the area.

The officers were intent on catching the alleged thieves and they set about gathering intelligence which would direct them to their target.

“They eventually ended up at an address where they found the stolen cable in a trolley.

They spotted a suspect who fled. He jumped the fence of a house and managed to evade capture. Fortunately more information was received about two other addresses where it was alleged stolen cable was stored. 

On arrival at the properties two arrests were made and more overhead cable was found. These arrests would not have been possible without community support and people are encouraged to share any information they may have on criminal activity.”

In the electrocution incident, Dyason says the man together with four other accomplices had already cut 80 metres of signalling cable when officers arrived on the scene on Sunday 17 November. “Three men were able to evade capture, while two others were caught. The cable when recovered was still warm. The officers left with the suspects and while busy charging them at the police station, officers were called back to the scene as another suspect had just electrocuted himself trying to steal more cable at the same spot. He was seriously burnt.”

Dyason says metal thieves use minors as lookouts to warn them of any approach by law enforcement and police.

“This modus operandi served them well until Saturday 16 November when officers, who were not dressed in uniform, strolled past the minors. The youngsters fooled by this ruse realised too late that law enforcement was about to arrest their friends who were busy stealing metal infrastructure on the station. No amount of frantic whistling by the minors could save the suspects from arrest. 

“On the same day they moved to deal with a complaint in Bishop Lavis of a man armed with a firearm robbing people on their way to the railway station. On arrival the suspect who made it very convenient for his pursuers to identify him by wearing a bright red top, was quickly and bravely taken down by the officers. 

He was disarmed and the firearm was found to be a replica. He was arrested and charged,” he adds.

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott says factors which contributes to cable theft include vagrancy, drug abuse, unemployment and illegal electrical connections.

“None of these are Prasa or Metrorail issues yet have significant impact on the train service. Until these issues are adequately resolved by the appropriate agencies, no security strategy or resources will be totally effective. We collaborate and share resources in a united fight against the scourge of crime, gangsterism and damage to essential infrastructure. 

“Criminals are not born and bred within rail precincts, they spill over from surrounding areas where communities live in fear of retribution to the point where they hesitate to expose criminals in their midst so the cycle continues,” Scott says.

Since March last year, Scott says there has been hundreds of arrests, scores of convictions and collective jail terms in excess of 300 years. 

“Research has shown that about 65% of offenders arrested are between the ages of 15 to 35 and more than 75% were under the influence of some of other drug during the commission of the crime. As soon as hot spots are covered and trends addressed, crime is spatially displaced to new area of ‘opportunity’ proving that a comprehensive multi-disciplinary and sustainable approach is required.” 

Scott says despite this, Metrorail’s technical teams are working around the clock to repair the damage. 

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