Vandals target city’s robots

2014-03-14 00:00

VANDALISM of the city’s traffic lights has reached unprecedented levels with at least one incident a day reported since February in what authorities suspect is a “good deed” scam.

Carlos Esteves, deputy head of the eThekwini Transport Authority’s road systems management, blamed traders and vagrants whom he said were sabotaging traffic lights to collect “good deed” tips from motorists in return for acting as pointsmen.

He said robots at the Rick Turner and Bellair roads intersection had been targeted several times. Other affected intersections are the South Coast Road and Solomon Mahlangu, Solomon Mahlangu and Bellair, N2 and M7, N2 and Umgeni Road, and at 45th Cutting.

In an attempt to curb the ongoing vandalism, the city has now ordered anti-theft, tamper-proof covers to replace the metal covers in the next few weeks.

Some have been installed but have since been sent back to the manufacturer to be modified after they were broken with crowbars.

The modification will include changing the shape of the bolts so that a normal spanner doesn’t work, and there won’t be a way around to probe with a crowbar.

Esteves said they receive complaints about tampering daily, with the most recent report recorded on Wednesday.

“The cost to repair varies in each instance — it depends on the damage caused,” said Esteves.

He explained that each traffic signal pole has an access hatch for maintenance.

“The covers are locked with a customised lock, these people use crowbars or some other metal lever to force the cover open by bending it or breaking the lock.

“They then cause a ‘short circuit’ by either crossing wires over or possibly by pouring water into the system, which is monitored by an electronic equipment on the roadside,” he said.

“The electronic device will then trigger the system to a flashing mode,” he said.

He said electricians have to inspect the entire system, checking the various poles to ensure that the problem is not replicated at more than one pole.

Esteves said the “short circuit” or whatever is damaged is repaired and then the roadside control device is accessed to re-set the intersection.

Metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi said they had in the past made arrests in connection with the tampering of traffic lights.

He said their pointsmen were sent to traffic intersections that had high traffic volume.

Dr Andrew Aucamp, senior manager in the transport authority, said there were 800 traffic lights around the city and eight to 10 traffic light poles per major intersection.

He said no cost calculations have been made to ascertain the cost of vandalism since 2007.

“We have a budget of R64 000 for each traffic light maintenance per annum,” said Dr Aucamp.

He appealed to motorists to refrain from giving illegal pointsmen money or remuneration.

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