“The City of Cape Town Copperheads “maintain an annual arrest and confiscation rate of 100 arrests and 1 ton of copper respectively”NeilArendse

Exclusive interview with Neil Arendse, Assistant Chief: Metals Theft Unit (Copperheads), City of Cape Town. Mr Arendse is part of a panel discussion around vandalism and cable / copper theft in the utility industry during the smart grids track at African Utility Week in Cape Town in May.

1. Who are the Copperheads? 

The concept of the Metals Theft Unit (MTU) found its beginning in the Mayoral Committee Meeting of 2007 that resolved: “the City Manager be mandated to take the necessary steps to combat non-ferrous metal theft…” The Cable Theft Unit, informally known as the Copperheads, was birthed.

Due to an expansion of focus from Copper to also include other metals, the name of the Unit changed to the Metals Theft Unit or MTU as we know it today. The main goal of this business unit is to eradicate theft of ferrous and non-ferrous metals within City of Cape Town jurisdiction. The skills necessary for being part of this Unit is crime prevention, investigation, risk assessment, operations planning and intelligence gathering.

2. How successful have you been? 

The unit maintains an annual arrest and confiscation rate of 100 arrests and 1 ton of copper respectively.

3. Do you work with other municipalities in the country? How do Cape Town’s efforts compare?

The Copperheads are the only unit of its kind in South Africa but share practices with all interested Municipalities including Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay, and eThekweni.

 4. What are the main challenges?

Lack of investigative powers for metal theft and judicial challenges.

 5. What is your vision for this industry?

That there be adequate policy and legislation that will ensure effective regulation of copper and metal theft.

6. You are part of the programme during this year’s African Utility Week in May – what will be your message at the event?

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration!

7. What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?

Engaging with role players from other countries on the issue of copper and metal infrastructure theft.

8.Anything you would like to add?

Creating more opportunities to add value to one another.