Thieves steal Sim cards from Jo'burg traffic lights - TechCentral

Thieves steal Sim cards from Jo’burg traffic lights

The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) suspects that a syndicate is stealing Sim cards from the city’s hi-tech traffic lights, and using them to run up phone bills.

More than 400 of the city’s 600 hi-tech traffic lights — which use a Sim card, modem and GPS system to send and receive information — have been damaged. The intelligent traffic system is meant to save manpower and time by sending messages to the JRA head office when a traffic light is malfunctioning.

JRA spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday that the robberies were “systematic and coordinated”.

“They know which signals to target. They clearly have information,” he said.

Each traffic light costs about R22 000 to fix.

“All the broken lights that have been assessed so far, about 150, have been vandalised,” Makhubela said.

Makhubela said some traffic lights damaged last year had been fixed, only to be damaged again. “It’s like someone has a vendetta against the JRA. They were vandalised again with such vengeance.”

If all 400 traffic lights need to be repaired due to theft and vandalism, it could cost about R8,8m.

Makhubela said the JRA was brainstorming with its suppliers about how to make the traffic lights more secure.

Cases of theft and vandalism have been opened at various police stations.  — Deshnee Subramany, Mail & Guardian Online


  1. Just do what some tracking companies do – big blob of resin over the SIM, so you can’t get it out without destroying the SIM card. Thieves will soon learn it’s a waste of time getting them out the traffic lights.

    There’s no reason they should have had the voice service enabled on them in the first place. Really poor planning by whoever implemented it.

  2. Poor planning. There are services available from companies like Flickswitch that manages SIMs for telemetry devices. Would be very stupid to put a normal contract SIM into a device like that!

  3. This is such a shame. There are some great products out there managing SIM cards,for instance SimZone. They should have a system which alerts them should the SIM be inserted into another device…

  4. Great. Now everybody knows the traffic lights have sim cards.
    Guess whats going to happen next.

    Bunch of twits.

  5. Has JRA not heard of PIN codes?

    What does a traffic light need GPS for? It doesn’t move!

  6. @Jake

    It needs a GPS so that when it transmits a message to the JRA, it could also include it’s GPS coordinates to them.

  7. @Donald

    Why, do the traffic lights move? Is that why it has to keep transmitting its GPS coordinates?

  8. I can see it now, ppl in the ghetto making calls from stolen traffic lights. LOL.
    Also; if the whole light is stolen; then the sim lets the ppl know where to look and find the person calling from the light. Why not just put the camera onto the light and another camera onto that one and another onto that one and so on till you have a circle? Then put the satellite cams onto the the circle. Then have a motion detector to watch it. Or, just pay someone that will actually be there to protect it. It will create a job.

  9. Just like all Sa’s wonderful strange problems, we now have the trafic light fiasco. Someone got big bucks for some simple device installed at trafic lights and called it high tech. now 400 robots are not working because the devices are being stolen. All those that knew about these things being installed should be investigated. How could the people that approved these simple upgrades , not asked for a better product or security. (ook maar dom ne) There are so many ways to secure these, just think of fiddle proof sim cards ( it disintergrates when tempered with, different shape or size sim cards, to mention only two of many options) And all the other options that’s mentioned in the above. Now it suddenly cost R22,000.00 to fix one trafic light. Can’t they go back to the old system, whereby the PUBLIC phone’s in when a light is not working, they will then also save on the cost of calls and the old lights did not cost R22,000.00 to fix. This is rediculous and a public fund’s rip off, like always. Who got the contract ????

  10. Corneil du Plessis on

    That is why you work with the cell provider and setup your own APN. This means the SIM is not worth anything to anyone else. You also tamper proof the hardware!

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