Preventative measures have been taken by the Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) to curb the theft and vandalism of traffic lights which has reached alarming proportions.
More than 365 cases of theft and vandalism of the city’s traffic signals have been reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS) over the past year alone. Currently 30 out of 2 111 traffic signals across the city are out of order due to cable theft and traffic poles being cut and stolen.
The first major step in combating the scourge by JRA was to install CCTV cameras and sensors to detect and respond to criminal acts of vandalism and theft.
“It costs more than R300 000 to replace a vandalized signal and approximately the same for security measures per intersection. It should therefore come as no surprise that the JRA has spent in excess of R10-million in dealing with theft and vandalism of traffic signals equipment and cables in the last financial year,” says JRA Acting managing director Mpho Kau. At the 30 intersections where CCTV cameras have been installed, theft of cables has reduced by between 60% and 80%.
Traffic signals are cut down for their copper wire, electrical components and traffic light poles. Such acts of vandalism lead to the disruption of essential services and jeopardize public safety. It is estimated that the knock-on economic impact of traffic signal downtime due to stolen power or copper cables or other traffic light equipment runs into billions of Rands as non-functioning traffic lights lead to congested roads and impact on transit time for commuters.
An alternative material to copper cable will be piloted over the next few months. The aluminum alloy cable, which is clearly distinguishable from the standard copper cable does not have any resale value.
“Once the alternative cabling material has been thoroughly tested and approved for use, the challenge will be to educate the community on the new alternative material cables so as to reduce the occurrence of theft and vandalism,” says Kau.
A further major preventative measure aimed at curbing theft and vandalism of traffic lights will be the launch of the JRA Infrastructure Protection Unit. A seminar addressing vandalism and theft of infrastructure across the City is to be held in August this year in collaboration with other City of Johannesburg entities such as City Power, Johannesburg Metro Police, as well as other role players that include the South African Police Service, NPA, Hawks, scrap dealers and security organizations, to ensure a consolidated campaign to combat this scourge.
JRA is appealing to scrapyard owners not to buy JRA assets when approached with such items but to rather report this to the JMPD, SAPS and other security organisations. JRA is also requesting members of the community to engage in Active Citizenry and report all acts of vandalism and theft of road infrastructure and any other of the city’s ‘furniture’.
Some of the hot-spot intersections that are repeatedly targeted – some within 24 hours of replacement – and are under constant siege by criminals are:
- The Wemmer Pan/N17 on ramp where a suspect was recently arrested by a JRA security contractor.
- Chris Hani Road and Aerodrome Road in Soweto has been targeted 44 times over the past year;
- Nasrec Road and M1 south Off Ramp in Aeroton has been targeted 26 times over the past year;
- Comaro Mooi Link/Wemmer Pan Road and North Road in Springfield Extension 4 has been hit 22 times;
- Comaro Mooi Link/ Wemmer Pan Road and M2 West on ramp in Springfield Extension 4 has been targeted 24 times over the past year;
- Bonsmara Road and Leer Road in City Deep Extension 1 has been hit 27 times; and
- Charles Road and Hamilton Road in Claremont has been targeted 21 times over the past year.