School burglary and vandalism

Donald Grant
Donald Grant

“Report the illegal trade of copper and other metals to your local authorities”

It always angers me when I hear of incidents of burglary and vandalism in our schools.

The replacement of equipment or the repairs to broken ceilings or doors costs the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and in many cases the schools involved money. This is money that could be spent on other items that could improve the quality of our schools or the learning environment, such as textbooks, stationery, maintenance or technology.

Every time a copper pipe is stolen, or a window damaged – it essentially affects the learner.

During the recent autumn school holidays there were nine incidents of burglary and vandalism to our schools. In the same period last year there were five.

I am relieved that in each of the nine cases the damage is seen as minor and not major. However, one case is a case too many. There still will be costs involved to repair and replace the damage caused. The estimated cost of damages is being determined.

Three of the nine cases were in the Metro South District. There were two cases each in the Eden Karoo District and Metro Central. Metro East and Metro North each had one incident.

Of the nine cases, five involved copper or cable theft. In another incident, a flag pole was stolen from the school premises.

It is clear that in the majority of these burglary and vandalism incidents – metals, such as copper, are the main target.

While the WCED can try to safeguard our schools with additional security measures, we cannot win the fight against school burglary and vandalism without community support for schools.  Given their extensive physical infrastructure, they are very difficult areas to secure on a 24/7 basis.

We therefore need community support in not only reporting suspicious behavior in and around our schools to the police, but also by reporting illegal metal traders.

According to the City of Cape Town, syndicates are ‘employing’ people who are desperate for work to steal copper cables and pipes as well as other non-ferrous metal items such as sheeting, grids, ladders, water meters, fencing, taps and manhole covers – and in our recent case, even a flag pole!

The stolen metals are then burnt to avoid identification and sold to scrap metal dealers, who sell them to overseas syndicates.

We therefore ask local communities to report dealers that are not complying with the law by buying stolen property, to the police or the local authorities.

For instance, the City of Cape Town has an elite task team of specially trained officers known as the “Copperheads” who are responsible for investigating and arresting perpetrators who are involved in the illegal trade. Residents in the City of Cape Town can call 021 596 1999, 24/7 to report metal theft. Likewise, residents in other Municipalities should also contact their local municipal offices.

If our communities work together with their schools, local enforcement agencies and their local municipalities in reporting the illegal trade or theft of metals, we will ultimately reduce school burglary and vandalism.

By working “Better Together” we can defeat this trade.

(Please note: The WCED does not identify the names of schools that have been affected by burglary and vandalism. In many cases, the damages caused by the perpetrators can result in a security threat or breach. Therefore, it is our policy to not announce the names, unless being approached with a specific school request.)

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