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Copper Cable Thieves Strike Openreach AGAIN in Cambridgeshire UK

Friday, September 6th, 2019 (7:37 am) - Score 3,654

Police are investigating after around 2,200 premises in Cambourne were left without broadband ISP and phone access to Openreach’s (BT) national network following a major theft of the operator’s core copper cables, which is the latest in a spate of seemingly related “Metal Theft” incidents in Cambridgeshire.

By the looks of it the criminal scum, who clearly have no regard whatsoever for the significant impact they have on local residents and businesses, lifted the concrete lids on one of Openreach’s core copper access chambers before dragging 500 metres of weighty copper cables out of the ground and then cutting them.

A theft of this scale would seem to point the finger toward an organised gang, which may be targeting areas – usually rural ones – just outside of larger communities because it’s easier for them to go undetected and there are often fewer defences on the infrastructure to worry about.

Sadly there have now been several seemingly related incidents like this in Cambridgeshire and several have occurred within the past few weeks, including the one that we only reported on a few days ago (here). A related report on Cambridge News carries some pictures of the damaged infrastructure at the bottom.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“Our network has been damaged again in Cambridgeshire, which is really disappointing. Around 500 metres of our underground cable has been taken and we understand how frustrating this must be for people living there who are now without a telephone and broadband service.

Our engineers are already working on the repair and we’ll get this done as quickly as possible. We’re working closely with Crimestoppers and ask people to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.”

Repairing this sort of damage is neither easy nor quick to resolve and requires a significant commitment of engineers, which will be taking resources away from other tasks like rolling out fibre optic broadband. Optical fibre isn’t worth anything to such thieves but copper currently carries a good price among dodgy scrap metal dealers.

Openreach has a partnership with Crimestoppers, which means they tend to offer a reward of up to £1,000 for information on these sorts of cable thefts (if it leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible). If you have any information on this incident, please contact them on 0800 555 111 or use the online form – everyone stays 100% anonymous (information passed directly to the police will not qualify for a reward).

We should point out that people who commit this sort of crime don’t always get away with it and a fair few have already been put behind bars, although it’s difficult to get any up-to-date statistics as metal theft tends to cover a variety of different things.

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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.
Leave a Comment
23 Responses
  1. Dazzza says:

    If they changed it to fiberoptic like they clain it wouldn’t be stolen

    1. Badem says:

      Yet FTTP still gets damaged by morons who cannot read and think its copper, then taking multiple sites offline depending on where they cut.

    2. Mike says:

      Then they need to upgrade it sooner rather than later then the criminals will learn sooner.

    3. Dr David Griffiths says:

      Yes but that needs a collective brain, something that is absent in Openreach. The bigger the organisation, the less interest they have for individuals and small groups.

    4. FibreFred says:

      Victim blaming?

    5. beany says:

      There is victim blaming but there is also a victim culture in this country today.

      Would you call someone that walks around with a sign (lets call that a BT manhole cover/cabinet) saying i have thousands of pounds worth of property in my pockets (ducts) a victim when they get robbed or would you call them terminally stupid.

      Or a couple more realistic examples that narc me growing up when younger in a poor seaside town. People that decide in 20ft waves and a storm it will be a good idea to go paddle in their dinghy/canoe in the sea near a shipping lane and then wonder why they need rescuing. The only victim in that is the poor people that have to risk their lives to go rescue the idiot.

      Or the tourist that parks their car in an particular part of the same town where you can tell from the general surroundings of the area (things broken, everything shutdown etc) it may have the odd opportunistic poor person that decides if you are dumb enough to leave your valuables on display in your car, but also to be extra stupid leave the windows open as its a hot day, that your satnav, wallet, phone, gold bar or whatever it may be, may not be there when you get back. You may well be able to argue are a victim of theft, but primarily they are an idiot for not taking the stuff with them.

      Victim culture is cancerous. Blaming someone else when A CRIME could had been prevented. In this case BT not using copper anymore is stupidity and nothing more.

      Ive also always found the £1000 reward Openreach offer thing another terminally stupid oxymoron. If you have a gang stealing all this copper and its so expensive and worth so much, i highly doubt any member of that gang of thieves is going to turn in the rest of them for £1000 if they are rolling in cash from nicking copper.

      I also doubt many of joe public that saw it all happen in this day and age, would care about that £1000 (i certainly would not) given it has to lead to not only an arrest but a conviction (so chances of getting it are cut before you even start to try and help). It will also likely mean you have to give evidence in a court which will mean you will have to take time off work potentially losing more than that reward covers, never mind the fact that if it is a large organised gang you could be a target for any of them that do not get prosecuted and never mind the fact that if they are found innocent and not guilty your reward is void as a “conviction” would not have happened.

      Ah the justice/policing/governing/prosecuting system, BTs copper and reward system and a whole big yarn of stupid all wrapped up.

    6. FibreFred says:

      Ridiculous statement.

      Don’t use a particular type of material because it might get stolen.

      Use that argument elsewhere and see how ridiculous it looks.

    7. beany says:

      I did not say they should not use copper, im saying if the copper is that important and valuable they should take more steps to prevent its theft or more steps thereself to catch anyone that does steal it.

      Copper theft used to be very big on the london underground until they fitted CCTV and devices that alert security when a break in at stations occur and when cables are tampered with. Now when the very few thefts compared to 10 years ago do happen the thief is normally caught shortly after.

      A similar thing has happened with the power networks, sure metal theft on them still happens but it has been massively reduced as even sub station now have security and main cabinets/ducts/hubs have sensors that alert when they have been opened.

      You can think it is a ridiculous statement if you wish but perhaps BT should talk to the police more as they helped advising those organisations on how to reduce and prevent theft, they do it for regular joe public also and are happy to advise in general on how to secure you property. I guess BT would sooner not spend the money to protect their property (unless its a cheap solution like their “smart water” which obviously does not help) and find it easy to cry im a victim.

    8. cdh1981 says:

      Here we have Dazzza. Dazzza isn’t very bright. Don’t be like Dazzza.

    9. beany says:

      There is no doubt if all copper was replace with fibre thieves WOULD still in the short damage it in their hunt for copper.

      I guess the difference would be when a thief (one with half a brain anyway) cuts into the cable and realises it is not copper they would not put in the effort of “dragging 500 metres” of it out of the ground for no reward.

      Openreach would then only have to rejoin the cable/s rather than totally replace them. Thus reducing work load, cost and time the punter is without connection.

      It would likely help reduce theft, while in the short term it may not prevent damage once the habitual copper thief learns the difference between between the 2 cables i doubt they (unless feeling really vindictive) would bother touching the fibre.

      Some will try to argue copper thieves are stupid so would no know the difference or care, but if that were true they would be catching more of them in the first place a lot more easily.

    10. FibreFred says:

      Easy enough to secure a substation.

      But securing 1000s of miles of overhead and underground cabling and pcp’s?

      Maybe you should advise BT how to do that.

      Pretty sure the cost would outweigh the cost of theft.

    11. beany says:

      I doubt overhead cabling theft is much of an issue or target. That goes pole to pole only a couple of hundred metres (typically) at a time and is pretty thin stuff with a few dozen pair. So unless they are in most cases racing up and down ladders pole to pole to nick vast quantities of the stuff i doubt there is much profit for them Vs the energy expended. If that is happening then i am amazed they are not caught as thieving like that i imagine would take several hours.

      I suspect the thief which knows the value goes more for hefty ground level and underground stuff. BT could help thereself with that by…
      A) Not just laying cables in ditches but replacing where it is in ditches in a more secure fashion. The same goes for any cable which is just direct buried under soft ground ie fields, grass verges etc.
      B) Ducted stuff should have what i believed is termed ‘armoured’ duct covers which lock, similar to what is used overseas (in parts of Germany, the US, Korea which i have seen and probably more i have not seen in person).
      C) Cable companies in Canada in newer builds fit a Alarm (similar in design to those old door/window sensors) where when the cover is opened an alarm goes off (i am not certain if it is linked to a security company/police, i imagine it is). I would not want to be standing around that if i were a thief, 1)it brings attention and 2) not nice for your ears standing next to it for a prolonged period.

      I am not BT hating either, they do a better job than others in certain areas. An example BT cabinets and the locking system on those from what i have seen is better than Virgins.

      I doubt any lock on a cabinet or duct will deter the most determined thief but i have seen far more virgin cabinets busted open in my time than BT ones, so making life more difficult does reduce your chances of being a “victim” and the thief going for the easier target… Which was my whole point in the beginning.

      Finally in regards to ‘cost would outweigh the cost of theft.’ Im not so sure it would if theft is that big a problem, as its not only the cost of the cable that needs to be replaced but the man power and any money they have to pay out for SLA and similar to customers. If you are correct though then the darker side of me says they deserve whatever happens to them, if i were a victim of theft i would do all i could to make sure it did not happen again regardless. Then again in BTs case i suspect rather than them paying directly for thefts its a pay out from a poor insurance organisation, so playing the victim card works for them.

    12. Flemming J. Rasmussen says:

      Cable clamp in rail with connector. Anti threft protection Patent PR 178 873

      Have a nice cable day from Denmark

      http://www.pa201200043.dk / http://www.danskdatategning.dk

  2. anon says:

    I don’t understand why they don’t just make it illegal to steal copper cables.

    1. Archie says:

      Being sardonic, per chance?

  3. Archie says:

    Capital punishment should be brought back for denying people access to the internet lol 😉 (Joking, obviously)

    1. Mike says:

      Perhaps the punishment should be a lifetime digging holes for installing FTTP.

  4. Dr David Griffiths says:

    Close to where I live, main fibre and copper bearers (linking Cabs 3 miles apart) are on the ground, low enough on poles to be stolen and one main copper bearer supporting almost 100 subscribers is so low (and has been for years), is tied to a hedge – a thieve’s dream. Despite me bringing this to the attention of ‘senior’ Openreach management on many occasions over the past 10 years, nothing has been done – adding to the frustration of many locals (including me) who often have broadband download speeds as low as 70kbps and voice connections so bad they can’t even hear their next-door-neighbour on calls…thanks Openreach for your care, interest and support of subscribers in Rhos y Brithdir and the surrounding area.

    1. beany says:

      Do not worry when it is stolen im sure BT will cry victim as they constantly seem to like doing. They will then promptly replace it all in exactly the same position it currently is and then wonder why they are a “victim” again a year down the line.

    2. FibreBubble says:

      They won’t thieve an overhead 100pr. It’s to small and the value is low due to the mix of metals.

      If it’s unsafe report it to Openreach here https://www.openreach.com/help-and-support/damage-health-and-safety

    3. beany says:

      ‘mix of metals’

      What other metals apart from copper are in these cables? I thought BT had stopped using aluminium and alu-mix cables.

  5. Paul says:

    Do you move if your car is stolen? so it’s not stolen again or do you replace it and park it back on your drive. cables are underground in duct or overhead on poles, perhaps you could share how you would solve the problem of how to replace the cables and get peoples phone and broadband up and running quickly ???

    1. beany says:

      “Do you move if your car is stolen? so it’s not stolen again or do you replace it and park it back on your drive.”

      No i would buy a car that has a better security system than the one that got stolen.

      If it were stolen via clever thief getting hold of the keys i would make sure i did not do whatever it was that allowed them to get the keys previously.

      If it were a very clever thief that had the intelligence to bypass any car security and not need my keys to take the car from the driveway and i was that determined i would fit a erectable and collapsible steel bollard at the end of the drive/tight to the bumper of the car along with a wheel clamp see even if they could get in and start the car they would not likely be driving off with it anywhere.

      Of course if you want to argue a determined thief could also remove the bollard and wheel clamp (highly unlikely they are going to sit there on my drive with a angle grinder for a prolonged period) id argue in response the chance of me being a victim again rather than the thief going for an easier target is not that great which in turn means im unlikely to be a “victim” again when there are far easier and nicer cars around to nick.

      If the car was not stolen from my driveway but in public id be sure not to park it where i did previously (again unlike BT who will just install the copper exactly like it was before).

      You should by now be beginning to see how this works…. Its called taking measures to ensure you are not a “victim” rather than repeating what you did to become one in the first place. AKA not being a stupid cry baby.

      You might be shocked but the police also actually recommend simple things like not repeating your prior mistakes that thieves took advantage of. Its a highly elusive thing in todays society, i believe it was once called ‘common sense’. A thing long gone to the self obsessed culture that seems prevalent today.

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