The City of Cape Town’s Metal Theft Unit, also known as the Copperheads, is intent on curbing metal theft

The City of Cape Town’s Metal Theft Unit, also known as the Copperheads, says it is intent on curbing metal theft and is aiming to double the amount of copper confiscated year-on-year. The unit has already confiscated 2 489kg of mixed copper and 252.5 metres of cable this year, a statement released by the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security said.

In 2021, the unit retrieved 1 278kg of mixed copper and 406.5 metres of cable. “This translates to millions of rands in infrastructure vandalised and destroyed,” says Safety and Security MMC JP Smith.

“Metal theft impacts not only services and infrastructure, but also the health of those residents in the areas where thieves burn their looted plasticised cabling to get at the wires. Doubling the amount of copper seized is not the only achievement of the unit,” adds Smith.

“From July to September this year they’ve done more than five times the number of operations, and inspected double the number of scrapyards or bucket shops compared to the same time last year.”

The current street value for copper is R120/kg, which means this year’s confiscated haul is worth an estimated R298 680.

“Metal and cable theft takes place across the city and the number of complaints increased from 124 to 145 for this time period,” says Smith.

“Residents are tired of this crime which threatens their well-being. They realise that this money could be spent on improving basic services and is instead being used to replace stolen infrastructure such as manhole covers, fire hydrants and water meters.”

The following stats compare July-September 2021 to July-September 2022:

Autonomous operations: 26 vs 132.
Scrapyards/bucket shops inspected: 437 vs 811
Arrests: 55 vs 53
Hotspot patrols: 454 vs 630

“Some of the unit’s recent successes were in August when they retrieved metal valued at R10 623 street value, in a second incident, a repeat offender was found in possession of cut-up City drain covers weighing 238kg. While executing a search warrant for a storage facility in Philippi officers also made a successful arrest and recovered approximately 540kg of copper cable,” concluded Alderman Smith.

Residents can report anonymously if they are aware of illegal activity that is taking place by calling 0800 110077 toll-free.