Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Editors' Forum | Street light misery - Lamp theft draws JPS ire; full LED rollout by 2021

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2019 | 12:32 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
Gladstone Taylor/Multimedia Photo Editor Blaine Jarrett, senior vice-president of energy delivery, is animated as he makes a point to journalists on Thursday.

Unscrupulous persons continue to put commuters’ and residents’ lives at risk by disabling and stealing streetlamps on major thoroughfares.

Yet more than a year after criminals strategically stole more than 30 street lamps in one night on Mandela Highway, high-ranking executives at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) say they are yet to make any arrests in that case.

Instead, they have had to replace the lights at exorbitant cost, similar to operations on the Hellshire main road in St Catherine, which was left in darkness after bandits months ago removed streetlamps there, rendering the stretch dark and unsafe.

Fortunately, one person was arrested in connection with the Hellshire main road light theft, but the executives say they are yet to make arrests in a string of other cases islandwide.

“It continues to be a challenge for JPS, and on the Hellshire main road, we have lost about 15 or 20,” explained Blaine Jarrett, senior vice-president for energy delivery. “One of the units cost somewhere in the region of about US$200 per lamp.”

BIGGER ISSUE

Jarrett was among several JPS executives at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum held at the newspaper’s head offices in Kingston Thursday.

“The bigger issue for us is the impact on the public, especially when those corridors are left in the dark. It presents a lot of safety concerns for the public and it is costly,” he continued, adding that it is believed that some individuals are using the lights to illuminate their personal spaces.

“There is a lack of social responsibility. Persons don’t recognise that these lights are there to serve the public, and it is of great concern to us,” Jarrett he told The Sunday Gleaner, adding that the utility company has been working with the police and other state agencies to identify and arrest the thieves.

“He said that JPS is also making its streetlamp system smarter to better identify lamps that have been stolen, as well as to identify locations to which they are moved.”

Late last year, the Government settled a $ 9-billion street light debt with the power company, which was fingered as one of the factors that stood in the way of residents getting defective street lights repaired and new ones installed.

But JPS said the more recent streetlamp thefts represents another growing challenge. There are approximately 105,000 streetlamps islandwide, and last year JPS repaired roughly 14,000 lights which it said were found to be defective.

Since September, the company has been repairing close to 2,000 defective lights monthly.

In the meantime, the power company has been replacing existing street lights with energy-saving LED lamps, a project it hopes to complete in another two years.

LIGHTS STOPPED WORKING

Residents have complained to The Gleaner that some of the newly installed LED lights have already stopped working, but according to the executives, they are aware of the problem and are taking corrective steps.

“We have identified a particular batch from the manufacturer and the manufacturer has accepted it, and we are working with them to replace those,” explained Jarrett, who said there is a 14-year warranty for the new lights.

“Its normal to have some level of what we call infant mortality. When you roll out 105,000 LED lights there are some that are certainly going to fail, it’s just a fact of life,” said newly installed JPS CEO Emanuel DaRosa, noting that in some communities persons are openly destroying the street lights.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com