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Stop signs to replace traffic lights because of theft in Jo’burg

26 January 2018 - 16:50 By Penwell Dlamini
Johannesburg is replacing traffic lights with stop signs because of theft.
Johannesburg is replacing traffic lights with stop signs because of theft.
Image: 123rf/ Dirk Ercken

Theft and vandalism is such a big problem that the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) won’t replace some traffic lights.

The situation is so bad that when the JRA tightened security‚ criminals killed two guards to get their hands on the infrastructure.

“We have brought in CCTV cameras and vibration detectors linked to armed security at high risk intersections‚ however this has also been abandoned as two guards were shot dead and thieves are able to steal items even before security arrives. Robust secure boxes with special locking devices to hold UPS systems have also been installed but thieves have also found a way around this‚” said JRA spokesperson Bertha Scheepers.

The JRA told TimesLIVE that traffic lights had been stolen on the Pelindaba road (K29)‚ Malibongwe Drive (R512) and the N14 North on- and off-ramps and the R114 at the Lion Park junction.

The agency said these traffic signals were recently reinstalled‚ using new copper-clad aluminium cables that have very little resale value. Despite displaying notices pointing out that the cables had no resale value‚ the cables were stolen again.

“Due to the high risk of theft and vandalism in that area‚ it was decided to decommission these traffic signals rather than to continuously rebuild the intersections again at a cost‚ just to have everything stolen again‚” said Scheepers.

She said the intersections fell under the jurisdiction of Gauteng’s roads department but the traffic signals were managed by the JRA.

“The matter was discussed with one of their representatives‚ who supported the decision to decommission the traffic signals until a more permanent solution is decided upon‚” she said.

The Gauteng roads department is to install stop signs and road markings. But the department expects thieves to steal the sign boards.

“The Gauteng Provincial Department of Roads and Transport has also indicated that their experience is such that within a few days of installing the new stop signs‚ it is likely that this too will be stolen. Point duty has been arranged for peak periods to relieve congestion‚” she said.

Scheepers said the JRA had seen a significant increase in theft of all road items that could possibly be resold such as manhole covers‚ steel posts and grids‚ road signage‚ guardrails‚ traffic signal poles‚ copper cables‚ traffic cameras and uninterrupted power supply units. By the end of the first half of the 2017/2018 financial year‚ theft and vandalism of road infrastructure had cost the city R12.3-million in repairs and replacements.

The theft of public infrastructure affects the City of Johannesburg budget because it has to spend money replacing equipment which it had already bought.

Scheepers said criminals were targeting uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system batteries - 427 UPS units were installed across the city to provide power at intersections during power outages.

”However‚ these UPS systems are also now being targeted by criminals. The traffic signal pole is sold as scrap metal; the cables are stolen due to the value of copper wire. JRA is replacing this with aluminium alloy copper cable‚ however this is still being stolen as criminals have not yet realised it has little or no resale value. CCTV cameras are also stolen as well as any other parts that can be sold as scrap metal.”

It costs the city R500 000 to build a new intersection.