The curse of copper thieves

All theft is a violation of space, personal property and one’s sense of wellbeing, but some acts of stealing leave one feeling especially violated and burdened with the consequences.

The theft of copper pipe at homes and business is one of those times.

I can thankfully say it has never happened at my home, but in the years I’ve lived in Port Alfred I have heard of many such incidents and know a few of the victims personally.

And then, on Monday morning April 1 (no joke), Talk of the Town staff all experienced the shock and dismay of arriving at work to find water spurting out of holes in the wall where scrap metal thieves had cut and ripped the pipes off.

We were one of several places – both homes and businesses – who fell victim to these thieves that weekend.

As reported in our front page story, this crime has several layers of impact, all of which is experienced by the people who have endured it. First, there is the inconvenience of having no water as the mains have to be turned off to stop water loss.

Second, the cost of a plumber to replace the pipes – with plastic this time. And as there is a demand for the plumber’s services, the additional wait and use of buckets of rainwater to wash and flush the loo.

Then, there is the pondering of water loss itself. Who knows how many hundreds of litres went to waste in the time between the thieves committing their acts of plundering vandalism and us becoming aware of the problem.

In one of the incidents reported by MultiSecurity, the suspected thief was still on the scene with a bag of copper pipes which he dropped while fleeing. In that case at least, not much time had elapsed between the theft and being able to attend to the gushing water.

For businesses not open every day of the week, unless there is a security guard on site such loss is not noticed until a day or two later.

All thieves have to act without conscience, but in this case it is not only with no regard for the home or business they are violating, they also have to feel nothing about the wasting of our precious and dwindling resource of water.

And this for the few bucks they will get from a dishonest scrap merchant.

These thieves are truly vile people, and if it is the work of a syndicate it is even more damnable. The police need to make note of the pattern, investigate and find the culprits.

– Jon Houzet

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