SA Engineer’s patent safeguards underground cables
Balancing risk and reward drives criminality, as is the case with most human endeavours.
From this point of view, cable thieves have seemingly found the sweet spot.
Within minutes an experienced cable thief can make off with lengths of underground cable and all he needs is a pick and a bakkie.
It is a simple operation. They chop the cable off on two ends, attach one end to the vehicle and simply drive off, pulling the length of cable from the ground, stopping to load the loot onto the vehicle.
One doesn’t even need a big staff!
The risk of arrest is minimal, because by the time the victims realise there is a power failure and what the reason is, the thief and the cable would be kilometres away.
The reward can be very handsome. At R54/kg a well organised team of cable thieves can earn up to R10 000 per night!
With such a low barrier to entry this makes an attractive business case.
That is for the criminals.
For business owners who lose stock due to a broken cold chain, property developers who have to replace cables and therefore suffer cost overruns and schedule delays and the municipality that has to deal with communities left in the dark, this is however a costly and increasing problem.
Cable theft costs the South African economy an estimated R7 billion per year and efforts to combat it have not yet paid off on any significant scale. The replacement cost of the same 1 km length of cable that earns the criminal R10 000, could amount up to R1.2 million, excluding installation and consequential costs.
About four years ago Pretoria engineer Gerhard Meyer decided to apply his mind to the problem. A “Boer maak ‘n plan”, they say and that is exactly what Meyer did.
He designed a simple resistance anchor out of polymer that would keep the cable entrenched underground and secure it in place. The anchor is attached to the cable at intervals of 1 m to 2 m, depending on soil type. Each resistance anchor can withstand about 900 kg of resistance in either direction.
Extensive testing has shown that the Rugged Croc, as the product was named, effectively prevents pulling out the cable in any direction.
Any cable thief used to pulling lengths of cable from the ground with his bakkie, will find the wheels spinning and will have to leave empty handed, if the cable is protected by Rugged Croc.
Meyer and some partners are commercializing Rugged Croc through their company Rugged Tek. They have registered an international patent and the product is now in full production.
Meyer says the Rugged Croc increases the risk of arrest for the criminal. It is definitely no longer a quick job to steal underground cables protected by this product. The only option would now be to dig up the whole length of cable, which would be a laborious operation that could easily be detected.
The reward has to be weighed against criminal prosecution and in some cases the wrath of the community.
Rugged Croc is available in three sizes, suitable for all cable sizes.
Meyer says it is not cost effective to install Rugged Croc on existing underground cables. Although, at roughly 10% of the cable cost at installation or replacement stage, Meyer says it is cost effective to safeguard an installation and save the business owner, property developer or municipality lots of inconvenience and costs.
For more information and video demonstration, visit www. ruggedtek.co.za.