Tlalane Tshetlo and Luzuko Pongoma
Daring thieves have stolen sim cards from high-tech traffic lights around Johannesburg and used them to make unlimited calls running into millions of rands, the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) has revealed.
Yesterday it came to light that for the past two months criminals had been targeting high-tech traffic lights that have modems.
The modem with a sim card was then removed by the criminals from the traffic light and the sim card was used by them to make unlimited phone calls that were believed to have run into millions of rands.
JRA spokesperson Thulani Makhubela said the theft was discovered in November.
“The cost for the repair and replacement of high-tech things removed from the traffic lights will cost about R9m,” said Makhubela
He said they were shocked by the theft of equipment installed in traffic lights around Johannesburg and said they believed a syndicate was behind the theft.
“These traffic lights have a GPRS system that we are able to control from our sophisticated control centre.
“Of the 600 high-tech traffic lights that have modems, 400 are believed to have already been targeted by criminals,” said Makhubela.
He said he did no want to go into details on how the traffic lights worked and which service providers provided them with sim cards but said the problems started in November.
“If we go into details on which robots have the new systems and how you can identify them, then we will be opening ourselves up for more problems.
“What I can say is that this has cost us a lot of money,” said Makhubela
Asked about surveillance cameras near the traffic lights, Makhubela said they had not picked up anything on their systems.
“We have now blocked all the sim cards that were stolen.
“We are speaking to our traffic engineers and suppliers on new ways we can make the sim cards inoperable if they are disabled from a traffic light and modem.
“We are going to be taking up new security measures to prevent this from happening,” explained Makhubela.
Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Edna Mamonyane said the vandalism of traffic lights was a contributing factor in road rage incidents.
“It causes a lot of traffic problems and unnecessary accidents.
“We get problems relating to drivers’ behaviour as some drivers are irritated and don’t give a chance to other road users.
“This causes road rage and we have to use more personnel to attend to that,” she said.
Mamonyane said that they were not aware which traffic lights had the GPRS technology but it had responded quickly to acts of vandalism that could be seen from its CCTVs.
She said there was a huge problem in areas in the outskirts that did not have CCTV, like the N17 near Rosettenville where traffic lights have been cut down on a number of occasions.