Lights out!
Stolen street lights hurting communities across Jamaica, costing JPS customers millions
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that unscrupulous people are preying on the Jamaica Public Service network and stealing street lights, for which JPS has spent over $47 million to replace. (Observer file photo)

THIEVES made off with 723 street lights in the last financial year, forcing the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) to spend more than $47 million to replace them, a cost which Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, on Wednesday, warned is eventually borne by customers.

McKenzie, during his 2021/22 sectoral presentation, told the House of Representatives that crooks have mainly been targeting Chesterfield Drive in St Andrew, and Hellshire main road in St Catherine, taking 32 lights along 3,300 metres of service wire on three occasions from Chesterfield. He said the equipment values more than US$50,000.

“JPS is reporting that the lights along the Chesterfield main road has been stolen for the fourth time, at a cost of US$16,000,” he emphasised.

At Hellshire, 15 lights and 1,500 metres of service wires were stolen in one go leaving the company at a loss of US$7,000.

“Unscrupulous people are preying on the network, all over the country. JPS spent US$303,660 — or over $47 million to replace them. It is clear that these criminal acts require the police response. It is not the responsibility for the constabulary alone [but] all of us as Jamaicans, because somebody must see something. It is the taxpayers of this country that have to foot these expenses, because the JPS somehow will have to recover the cost. The country needs to know that this is happening not just in the corporate area but right across Jamaica,” McKenzie stated.

According to Jamaica Observer sources, stolen street lights are being sold to housing developers.

Last week, Councillor Radcliffe McDonald (Jamaica Labour Party, Toll Gate Division) said several street lights had been stolen from his division and he was in the process of investigating the matter.

While speaking at the Clarendon Municipal Corporation’s monthly meeting, McDonald said he was approached by an individual seeking sale for street lights.

“The other day a gentleman asked if I wanted some lights to buy and I missed it because I jumped the gun. I said, ‘Anybody I catch with those lights going to prison!’ The man seh, ‘Mi naa badda tell you’. I couldn’t sleep that night. I should have told him to carry them come and make the police arrest him.”

Meanwhile, Minister McKenzie advised Parliament that the Government has paid off its $2.9-billion street light debt for 2020/21 to the JPS, an average of $243 million per month. At the same time, he lamented that all street lights are still not working, a long-standing issue.

“The local authorities and the citizens who fall within these areas across the country deserve better,” he remarked, noting that the Government continues to hold consultations with the light and power company on the issue.

On Wednesday the JPS told the Observer that the vast majority of streetlights are working.

The company started rolling out its smart/LED light programme in 2017, to replace 105,000 street lights across the island, initially by 2019. At the time the Government owed the company $5 billion in arrears. By January 2021, the JPS reported that more than 80 per cent of the island’s street lights had been replaced with smart LEDs, with parishes such as St James, and St Catherine, and Clarendon already completed.

The local government minister also said the ministry will be investing more than $300 million this year, to erect 10 kilometres of additional pole lines, to connect 2,000 households across 10 communities to the grid.

MCKENZIE... It is the taxpayers of this country that have to foot these expenses, because the JPS somehow will have to recover the cost
BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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