At least 40 Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) transmission towers in the State are vulnerable to theft.
Disclosing this yesterday, Federal Criminal Investigations Department Director, Commissioner Datuk Bakri Zinin, explained that the high tension towers are located close to squatter colonies.
In addition, a total of 3,263 towers are located in isolated areas.
"We realise that even when only three to four metal members are missing, it would affect the tower's structure. Therefore, we would like to encourage the utility companies, such as SESB and Telekom to fence in the towers to deter theft, priority on areas where there is squatter colony nearby,"he said.
Speaking to the media after a meeting with SESB, Telekom, local authorities and government agencies at the Kepayan Police Headquarters, here, yesterday, Bakri said it was timely for all quarters to take the matter seriously.
"For instance, avoid taking illegal immigrants as workers when setting up transmission towers just because of cheap labour. It is an offence,"he stressed.
Describing matters concerning communication and power supply as 'high risk security' to the police, he stressed that they are investigating cable and metal thefts from every angle, including whether they involve syndicates.
Stressing that police cannot be everywhere every time, Bakri urged utility companies to also make use of their respective auxiliary police force to conduct inspection of all transmission towers from time to time.
"Of course we are doing our level best, but we cannot be there all the time. So, we seek cooperation from all quarters to ensure that the areas are well secured," he said.
Asked whether these moves would be able to overcome the problem, Bakri answered:"We cannot promise that it (power collapse) would not happen again. But I believe that by conducting frequent checks, it would at least deter vandals from stealing." He said the public could also play their role by informing the police should they spot any such illegal activities in their area.
"These metals are heavy. It would need lorry to transport the goods elsewhere," he saidd.
On April 21, a 132 kilovolt transmission tower in Kampung Suang Parai collapsed after about 20 metal members were dismantled by thieves. It had caused major power black out for about six hours in 90 per cent of Sabah.
Touching on the case, State Police Commissioner Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said that a river close by could be an alternative mode of transporation for thieves to transport out the metal members.
"We also noticed there are missing metal members on most transmission towers built along the riverside. Therefore, we are also seeking the fishermen's assistance to inform us if they notice boats transporting metal goods out," he said.