This is going on in Johannesburg:

Hundreds of [traffic] lights have been damaged by thieves targeting the machines’ sim cards, which are then used to make mobile phone calls worth millions of South African rand.

More than two-thirds of 600 hi-tech lights have been affected over the past two months, according to the Johannesburg Roads Agency, causing traffic jams, accidents and frustration for motorists.

The traffic lights use sim cards, modem and use GPRS to send and receive information, a system intended to save time and manpower by alerting the road agency’s head office when any lights malfunction. According to Thulani Makhubela, a spokesman for the agency, the robberies have been “systematic and co-ordinated”, possibly by a syndicate. An internal investigation has now been launched.

“They know which signals to target,” Makhubela added. “They clearly have information.”

Wow. Real world, meet ubicomp!

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