02/2024 Burglaries & Electricity Box Damage Tampering

Between December 2023 and today (end Feb 2024), several burglaries have been reported which involve mains electricity boxes being tampered with. In our area, these have been almost exclusively in Hiddingh although we do know of two in Rondebosch and others further afield.

We need to prevent these crimes, ideally by catching the crooks but more immediately by making this crime unworkable.

THE CRIME: The modus operandi, with some variation, seems to be as follows:

  • You leave home for a few days.
  • Your electicity box, typically mounted just outside your gate, is tampered with and the mains electricity is switched off.
  • The alarm back-up battery takes over . Lead Acid batteries typically last a maximum of a couple of days – possibly just a few minutes minutes if the battery is tired.
  • You fail to heed the notification that your alarm battery is failing. This could be for any of several reasons
  1. No signal was ever sent by your security company.
  2. The notification was sent via SMS and, in the WhatsApp age, you simply didn’t see it.
  3. You thought it was just a loadshedding thing and assumed it would come right.

  • After the required time has passed, the burglars drive past your home, observe that the blue light is off (?) and/or try your doorbell, to establish that they can enter without risk of the alarm going off.
  • If the owners are away from home for days (which this MO appears to rely on) this gives burglars almost unlimited time in the property.


  • How do the burglars choose their victims? Do they know that you are away or do they try random houses that their experience tells them are likely targets (blue lights on 24/7, bin left out after bin day, curtains never drawn, etc)?

    We should be able to work this out if everyone who has had their mains electricity tampered with tells us.
  • Why do the victims seem to be limited to Hiddingh at the moment?
  • What are the number plates of the cars that are being used to ferry the crooks to and from our homes. People have been reporting these in the last few weeks, thanks for that. Please do this thoughtfully. If you are not 100% certain that a car is involved in a crime, but do think it is suspicious, post your report on the group but send the actual reg number privately to a group admin.

The two key things that these specific burglars need are an empty house and a disabled alarm. Anything you can do to mitigate those will be worthwhile.

Based on what we know now (and all ideas are welcome), the following things might help:

  • If you can use a housesitter, that is first prize. This covers both bases – empty house and disabled alarm.
  • Prevent access to your mains box. If you have a pay-as-you-go meter, this box very rarely needs to be accessed.
  • Replace lead-acid alarm batteries with Lithium ones. They last longer than the old-style bateries and hopefully you are back from your weekend away before they run flat
  • Even better, make sure your alarm system is on the your inverter, if you have one. Even better, if you have a solar / inverter / battery system, there is no reason for your alarm system to ever go down.
  • Do NOT ignore battery low signals from whoever your alarm is connected to. If you are an Olarm subscriber, you will get low battery signals on your app.
  • If you want to check whether your mains is still working while you are away, leave an outside light on and ask a neighbour to check it (not during load shedding….).
  • Always answer your intercom. Burglars often ring the bell to confirm that a house is empty. We have footage from a few days ago of a suspect running away from a house when he realised the owner was at home. He looked ready to hop over the wall. Many modern intercom systems allow you to answer the doorbell even while you are way. Do that.
  • Make it hard to hop over the wall! Never put your bin out the night before, or leave it out longer than you need to. It is a ladder in disguise and we have footage from more than one home to prove that.
  • Cameras!! They definitely work after a crime, to investigate and prosecute, and many in our area are already at work preventing crime, using AI alerts to spot suspicous activity at night and guide the Community Patrollers to the right areas.

We need to do this together with more information and better ideas. Feel free to contact March Turnbull 076 915 5423