UPDATED: FLOW repeats call for stronger measures to curb vandalism
The management of telecommunications firm FLOW is once again calling for more severe penalties such as stronger fines and longer prison sentences for persons who vandalise its private property, including its equipment and that of other telecoms providers.
This latest call by the firm has been sparked by incidents that occurred in Sandy Bay, Clarendon, earlier this month when investigators found that at least eight fibre closures had been removed from several FLOW locations since January of this year. This has resulted in service outages in the Rosehall, Lease Land, and Sunrise Drive communities of Sandy Bay.
According to Managing Director at FLOW Stephen Price, each year, the company suffers losses amounting to millions of dollars because of cable theft. "The industry is reeling from the effects of vandalism of equipment, and this activity invariably affects the service provided to customers in various communities," he pointed out. Over the last two years, damage to FLOW's infrastructure amounted to more than $500 million to approximately $300 million in 2016 and $230 million in 2017.
Ronnie Thompson, senior director of customer experience, is concerned about the impact on the company's ability to expand its services to better serve customers. "Recurring incidents of vandalism to our infrastructure are hampering our ability to fulfil requests by some customers for fixed-line services such as voice, Internet, and cable in a number of communities," he said. While the company has implemented several measures to deter persons from vandalising infrastructure, Thompson is also urging the relevant authorities to make the penalties more stringent.
At present, persons who are convicted for vandalising FLOW's property are charged for simple larceny under the Larceny Act. FLOW's management team argues that the penalties accorded to perpetrators are inequitable in relation to the losses suffered by the company.
BAN ON COPPER
FLOW points out that on February 9, 2017, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda announced a ban on the export of copper, with immediate effect, which, he indicated, was intended to discourage the theft of copper cables from utility companies. Persons found in breach of the Trade Scrap Metal Regulation 2013 would also face increased fines of $3 million, up from $2 million. The maximum two-year prison sentence, however, remains the same.
Vandalism of FLOW's infrastructure negatively affects critical services across several sectors, and FLOW is, therefore, encouraging all citizens to report incidents immediately to the police at 119 or Crime Stop by calling 311. FLOW is offering a reward for any report leading to a conviction.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In a previous version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda announced a ban on the export of copper in February 2018.)