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Crimestoppers and BT to Continue Fight Against UK Copper Cable Theft

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 (7:59 am) - Score 1,521

Criminals who cause misery to many thousands of people every year by pulling vast amounts of BT’s vital copper telecoms and broadband cable out of the ground (Metal Theft) may be displeased to learn that the operator has agreed to continue its work with the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers.

The existing partnership between BTOpenreach and Crimestoppers, which started in 2011 and has now been extended for another year, offers up to £1,000 as a reward for information leading to arrests and subsequent successful convictions (call anonymously and free on 0800 555 111); most often in areas like London and the North East.

Crimestoppers said they received a total of 50 pieces of information in 2014-2015 relating to offences against the Openreach network, which supported law enforcement with two arrests.

Since 2010 BT’s Metal Theft Taskforce (MTT) has also been tagging many of its vital copper cables and cabinet/exchanges with SmartWater, which is an invisible solution that can be used to forensically “tag” related cable/kit/thieves and protect vital UK telecoms infrastructure (i.e. helps the police to identify illegal items).

Rodger Holden, Crimestoppers Director of Business Development, said:

Crimestoppers and Openreach’s partnership continues to go from strength to strength and reaffirms our commitment to tackling an issue that can be highly disruptive to communities across the UK.

Cable theft and damage to the network is an issue that doesn’t seem to want to go away, and through working with Openreach and the support of the public, we hope we can eradicate this problem and ensure businesses and communities do not have to suffer any longer.”

Bernie Auguste, Openreach’s Head of Security, added:

Our business remains committed to tackling the scourge of cable theft and network damage which impacts on both our customers and our business. Our relationship with Crimestoppers is one of the many key elements in our strategy for addressing the problem and the involvement of the public has and continues to provide valuable information in identifying those who perpetrate these acts so that we can bring them to justice.”

Since the fight back began in 2010/11 we’ve seen a variety of new initiatives like those mentioned above and a new law that clamps down on illegal scrap metal dealers (2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act). On top of that BT’s work to replace many of its older core copper cables with new fibre optic infrastructure (fibre isn’t worth anything to criminals) has also helped to reduce the opportunities open to such thieves.

So far the drive appears to be working and Government figures reveal that since 2010 there have been more than 1,000 arrests for general Metal Theft and related offences, while the police have seized over 600 vehicles involved in criminality.

Overall there was a 40% fall in the number of offences for the three months to the end of March 2013, compared to the three months to the end of June 2012. More recently it’s been noted that the number of thefts of scrap metal in the West Midlands has dropped by more than 70% over just the past year.

But sadly we still see the occasional report concerning similar thefts of copper telecoms cable, which can be very time consuming to fix and often leaves communities without any phone or broadband connectivity for anything from several days to several weeks (depending upon the damage). The fight continues.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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