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JRA is loosing millions due to vandalised traffic lights

Mafa confirmed that It costs JRA between R250 000 to R1 million to rebuild an intersection depending on the nature of the fault or damage and It isn’t clear how much the resale or street value is, or the illegal export value

The Johannesburg Road Agency spokesperson Kelebogile Mafa said that the entity is aware of vandalised traffic lights along Jan Smuts Ave, and Pretoria Avenue intersections.

“Traffic signal poles were replaced on November 19, along Jan Smuts and Selkirk avenues. The two other intersections will be replaced as soon as road construction works are completed.”

There were three more vandalised traffic signal poles on Jan Smuts Avenue, near the entrance to the Randburg taxi rank.

According to the JRA, criminals target traffic signals’ infrastructure for materials such as copper cables, controller boxes, traffic signal heads, and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) batteries in order to re-sell them at street value. “Theft and vandalism of traffic signals is a citywide scourge which has cost millions of rand in lost revenue. The most hard-hit areas include Wemmerpan, Booysens, Roodepoort, Far East Bank, Greater Soweto areas as well as the inner city.

“We rely on law enforcement authorities (SAPS and JMPD) to apprehend criminals found to be involved in theft and vandalism and to conduct further investigations pertaining to criminal acts. There has been some success where the courts have sentenced offenders to a number of years in prison, ranging from six to 15 years. Most unfortunately, the problem is so widespread that the success rate is very minimal.”

Trafic signal pole cut down on Jan Smuts Avenue. Photo: Mthulisi Lwazi Khuboni

Explaining the findings of the investigations about this growing crime, Mafa stated that the alarming increase in theft and vandalism of the infrastructure suggests that criminal syndicates are behind these operations.

Two traffic signal poles at the corner of Selkirk and Jan Smuts avenues. Photo: Mthulisi Lwazi Khuboni

“At the moment, there is still a moratorium on the sale of second-hand copper which was announced by Treasury in 2022, however, we are still seeing an increase in copper cable theft and vandalism of our traffic signals. Most of the affected intersections are vandalised in the same manner (through using angle grinders to cut the traffic signal poles at the bottom to access and remove cables). Multiple signal poles are cut along one intersection, so the theft and vandalism is systematic and not sporadic.”

According to Mafa, JRA manages 2 020 signalised intersections and the number of traffic signal poles per intersection varies according to the size of the intersection.

Traffic light poles were cut down and cables removed. Photo: Mthulisi Lwazi Khuboni

“Our latest records indicate that we have over 16 000 traffic signal poles across the City of Johannesburg. Over the past four years, 531 (about 25%) of these traffic intersections have been vandalised. Replacing the affected intersections costs the JRA between R35–50m, and every 12 months it costs the JRA within the region of R12m in lost revenue due to these replacements.

“By January 2023, a total of 172 intersections were vandalised within a period of a year. While some of these have been replaced we are seeing more areas, such as Midrand, Marlboro and the Far East Bank become hotspots of this scourge. By the end of March 2023, the JRA had replaced 18 vandalised intersections.”

This is what the entity is doing to try to stop the fast-growing crime:

  • JRA continues to collaborate with SAPS and JMPD for law enforcement.
  • Recent efforts by the JRA include the replacement of metal and other copper products with alternative materials that have a reduced or zero re-sale value.
  • JRA has and continues to appeal to scrapyard owners to not purchase any COJ or JRA-owned assets when approached by culprits.
  • The City of Johannesburg and the JRA have intensified education and awareness campaigns in communities to encourage members of the public to report all acts of vandalism and theft of the road infrastructure.

Residents can contact 0860 562 874 or report criminal activities, such as theft and vandalism to SAPS on 08600 10111 and JMPD on 011 375 5911.

Related Article: Zone 3 road closure project to help fight crime

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