There was an attempted break-in at the Rochester Road sub-station on Friday night, May 19, but security guards chased the thieves away. It’s believed they returned sometime during the weekend, however, because on Monday May 22, City staff found beams, floorboards and timber supports had been stolen, causing parts of the sub-station’s roof to cave in.
Ward councillor Paddy Chapple said the thieves had loosened roof tiles near the chimney to get in.
There had been another break-in attempt at the sub-station just two weeks earlier, he said. Mr Chapple said a heritage assessment would be done at the sub-station to determine if it should be restored. “It is a setback because it’s money being spent because of crime.”
The Observatory sub-station, on the corner of Station and Main roads, now has to carry the extra load.
Residents are furious about the vandalism. Russel Diedericks, from Rochester Road, said the City should repair the sub-station immediately to prevent further vandalism.
“You have these guys going around the area looking for all kinds of scrap to take to the scrap dealers. When they see a building standing empty like this, they will think nothing of it to further destroy this building.”
The sub-station added character to Salt River and was a well-known landmark, he said.
Shihaam Boonzaier said the old building’s timber had made it attractive to thieves.
“The guys target these old houses or buildings now and they look for the wood. Obviously the copper is the first thing to fly, but the next best thing is the wood and these thieves remove and strip everything.”
The City has already spent more than R1 million on switchgear, transformers and a new fence at the sub-station. Repairing the roof, it said, could cost about R300 000.
Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy said the final repair bill could total about R2m.
Apart from the costs “shouldered by the ratepayer”, the vandalism had also caused power cuts and diverted staff, she said.
“We call on the public to report these vandals as it is not possible or practical to provide a constant security presence at our facilities.”
Woodstock police are investigating the burglary.
The station’s spokesman, Sergeant Hilton Malila, said vandalised buildings could become structurally unsound and hazardous.
“During our normal visits to second-hand operators, specialising in building material, we check their control registers for repeat sellers and also follow that information up to see where the seller got the material from,” he said.
The Woodstock police want property owners to post security guards and notify the station if buildings are empty so the police can keep an eye on them and prevent vandalism. The station has a register of empty buildings. It details their condition and any visits by police officers.
Vandalism can be reported to the station at 021 442 3117.