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BT Deploy RABIT Burglar Alarm Weapon to Tackle UK Copper Cable Thieves

Monday, Mar 26th, 2012 (7:34 am) - Score 2,321

BT has announced plans to deploy a new burglar alarm technology across its national UK network of copper based telephone and broadband ISP lines. The solution, called RABIT (Rapid Assessment B.T Incident Tracker), actively monitors the operators network and informs BT’s Security Control Centre when a physical disconnection (e.g. cable cut) has occurred.

Unfortunately copper is a highly valuable commodity and this has fuelled a growing spate of related thefts around the country. The problem has cost BT millions of pounds each year, while metal theft in general is estimated to cost the UK (across all industries) almost £1bn per year; not to mention the trauma caused by any related loss of phone and broadband internet services.

Apparently a trial of RABIT, which was conducted in Essex (England) during December 2011, successfully foiled a cable theft and forced the criminals to flee empty handed. BT is also part of a Metal Theft Taskforce (MTT) and uses SmartWater to forensically “tag” metal thieves and what they steal. This allows the Police to identify and trace related crimes, which can often involve punishing dubious scrap yards.

Luke Beeson, General Manager of BT Security, said:

BT’s new burglar alarm on the network will make thieves think again. We are now able to inform the Police of the exact location of malicious network attacks and, if trials are anything to go by, it won’t be long before they start catching the thieves in the act.”

Paul Crowther, Deputy Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, said:

In my view this technology will significantly improve Police response times to cable theft incidents and will act as a major deterrent to criminals engaged in this activity. More importantly, communities and businesses should see a sharp reduction in the disruption caused by this type of theft. This is an early example of how Government funding has helped the National Police Metal Theft task Force, assist BT in the battle against cable theft.”

BT claims that the growing efforts to tackle Metal Theft are beginning to show results, with the average number of arrests per month rising by almost 8% on last year. Over the past 11 months some 480 suspects have been arrested and 240 tonnes of stolen copper was recovered, which compares with 446 in the whole of 2010.


BT claims that 80% of cable theft on its network is carried out by organised crime gangs, though it’s unclear how many of the arrests have actually resulted in a conviction. Meanwhile hardly a week seems to go by without at least one report of broadband and telephone services being cut-off due to related criminal activity.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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