Tweed Shire Council mangers say they’re fed up with thieves stealing the batteries out of safety equipment at its work sites.
On Tuesday night, thieves used an angle grinder to grind the hinges off the metal cages that hold the batteries that powered a set of temporary traffic lights on Clothiers Creek Road.
The lights regulated a one-lane traffic flow through a section significantly damaged by a landslip in the March floods and now restricted to a weight limit of 4.5 tonne.
Council’s acting senior engineer construction, Bob Hanby said it was not a victimless crime as ‘these batteries power the devices that motorists rely on to stay safe on our roads’.
‘What could have happened on Tuesday night had two vehicles met head-to-head on that section of road is frightening,’ ‘ Mr Hanby said.
‘The community has every right to be concerned and outraged,’ he said.
Five pairs of batteries have been stolen out of temporary traffic lights and electronic sign boards in the past three weeks, with each theft costing ratepayers at least $2,000.
‘We have to replace the stolen items, get traffic controllers on site to manage the traffic during the repair and get a welding crew in to try and make the battery cages theft-proof.
‘Five pairs of batteries in three weeks is $10,000 lost that is sorely needed elsewhere.
‘All the recent thefts have been from flood-damage sites in the shire, adding insult to injury,’ Mr Hanby said.
The March flood caused $23.5 million of damage to the shire’s roads and bridges, with only $17.5 million recoverable through Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Assistance leaving Council with a $6 million shortfall on the road and bridge repair bill.
‘Clothiers Creek Road is going to be one of our most costly flood repairs, as is Hogans Road at Bilambil and Tweed Valley Way at Greenhills, South Murwillumbah, where batteries also were stolen.’
Last year, thieves were caught using bolt cutters to remove a battery in Kennedy Drive, Tweed Heads West.
‘That’s a high-density residential area and they nearly got away with it except one resident heard and spoke up; yelling out and scaring them off.
‘We want all the community to speak up on theft of our assets and report suspicious behaviour around depots and worksites after hours by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Council’s after hours number on 1800 818 326.
‘We don’t want anyone to confront the thieves but to note what they look like, their vehicle description and registration number and call it in,’ said Mr Hanby.
‘A vehicle parked near roadworks at night is suspicious; a vehicle towing a trailer with plant in the back at night is suspicious.’