There has been a wave of thefts across the far south as criminals take advantage of power cuts crippling alarms, lights, cameras and other security measures.
“Load shedding does not cause crime, but it does make it easier for criminals,” says Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middleton.
According to him, property-related crimes reported to Fish Hoek police station increased by 10% from April 1 to December 31 last year, but for the first month of this year, they were up 60%.
Keep emergency numbers and alternative light sources at the ready during power cuts, he said.
“Some have put in place light sources specific for load shedding, which is great, but please place them in such a way that they are not removed with ease.”
Noordhoek Football Club can’t water its fields or hold evening training sessions after its ground and floodlight cables and wiring for its irrigation system were stolen in December.
According to Joey Delcarme, the club’s chairman, they have had three thefts in the past 11 months.
“These opportunists know that during load shedding there’s no chance of them getting shocked or being electrocuted. They dug into the ground and disconnected and removed the wiring on our irrigation system. We are unable to train or water our ground. Without lights, we might as well pack up.”
In Ocean View, thieves are using the cover of darkness provided by the power cuts to steal cables and vandalise substations in the area, according to Terence Daniels, chairman of the neighbourhood’s community police forum.
“Cable theft during power cuts is a big problem. Opportunistic criminals try and steal the cables from the light poles, and during the evening, our substations get targeted for cable theft.”
Robberies had increased during load shedding, he said, warning residents not to walk over open fields at night.
In Fish Hoek, many of the security cameras put up by neighbourhood watches and businesses go blind during power cuts because they don’t have batteries, according to CPF chairman Jonathan Mills.
“During load shedding, up to two-thirds of their cameras go down. So that’s a problem for active surveillance. But, as is more often the case, it’s also a problem for investigation because now something’s disappeared during load shedding, and there’s no record. You can’t go back and see who it was, whether it’s a known member of the criminal fraternity, as it were, or kind of where they went or anything like that. Load shedding creates black spots in the information that can be gathered.”
Martin Field, the director of a company that installs and monitors security cameras across the far south, said they had noticed more criminal activity during the power cuts.
“Opportunistic criminals are using the cover of load shedding to target properties. Because load shedding is scheduled, and published, they know what’s going on, which is problematic. It keeps everybody in security very busy.”
Residents should work with their neighbourhood watches to secure entire streets instead of just focusing on lone properties, he said.
According to Hardy Maritz, a member of the Capri Neighbourhood Watch, faulty alarm batteries cause a lot of false alarms during load shedding that bog down security companies.
“Last week, we picked up a suspicious person on camera at 10.15pm. ADT was on nuisance calls from 10.05pm until after 10.50pm. This meant that they were not able to investigate the suspicious person. A further aspect of this is that if you had a genuine emergency, right after load shedding, there is a high probability your call could take 30 minutes to attend to.”
Fidelity ADT spokeswoman Charnel Hattingh conceded that false alarms caused by blackout-crippled systems hampered their ability to deal with real emergencies so homeowners should heed any low-battery warning signals from their armed-response company.
“Fixing these issues as early as possible can take the pressure off monitoring systems caused by a flood of signals received during load shedding.”