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Wave of Copper Cable Thefts Hit Broadband in East London

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020 (1:28 pm) - Score 2,056
copper cable pile

Over the past few weeks criminal gangs have conducted a series of thefts (Metal Thefts) of copper telecoms cable in East London, which has disrupted broadband ISP and phone connectivity on Openreach’s (BT) UK network for those living closest to the incidents. As usual a reward of £1,000 is being offered to help catch the thieves.

Sadly such crimes remain all too common and we’ve seen a variety of similar incidents over the past year (here, here and here). The perpetrators never seem to have any regard for the often-significant impact they can have on local residents and businesses, particularly during the current health crisis, where maintaining internet connectivity is more vital than usual.

Metal thefts like this usually occur through organised gangs and often target critical infrastructure in areas where they know the police response is likely to be slower. Elsewhere we’ve also seen cases where criminals have stolen hundreds of valuable batteries from Openreach’s street cabinets (here), but at least in that case there’s less disruption to the service and we’ve recently seen some convictions.

The latest spate on thefts have taken place in East London, often around Thamesmead (SE28). For example, a large section of live cable was pulled from Openreach’s underground communications network at the junction of Crossways and Glendale Way on 15th July 2020 at around 1-3am. A similar incident in the same area then took place after 11pm on 2nd August.

Sadly, the same part of London was also hit by a string of similar thefts at around the same time last year, which suggests that the same gang might be involved (you have to be a fairly brazen type of scum to keep attacking the same area).

Bernie Auguste, Director of Security Services for Openreach, said:

“These incidents have severely impacted the day-to-day lives of people across south east London. We are working closely with the police to catch those who are responsible and have deployed additional security enhancements across the area, but we also need your help.

Please be vigilant and if you saw anything suspicious on or around the time of the incidents, report it. If you prefer not to speak directly to police, then please contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously.”

Openreach has a partnership with Crimestoppers, which means they’re offering a reward of up to £1,000 for information on these thefts (i.e. when 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 newer full fibre (FTTP) broadband networks aren’t worth anything to such thieves, while copper can carry a good price among dodgy scrap metal dealers. But this doesn’t completely stop such activity because we have seen cases where criminals have ripped up optical fibre on the assumption that it might be copper, only to leave looking like even bigger morons than usual.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar joe says:

    “Openreach has a partnership with Crimestoppers, which means they’re offering a reward of up to £1,000 for information on these thefts ”

    Given the costs to them 1k seem far too low…

    1. Avatar Nick Roberts says:

      Exactly. Another ace-in-the-hole (Literally) for the guardians of the national telecommunications infrastructure . . . and HMG were worried about the threat from Huawei.

      I suppose sticking movement sensors in the inspection chambers would be considered far too expensive . . so an unexpected incentive to get that fibre installed PDQ ?

      This joined-up government is fantastic .

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      As ever there’s a fine balancing act. Simply putting out a bigger reward doesn’t necessarily result in more information being received. Generally if somebody did see something then they’ll usually report it anyway and offering £1k just helps to get that over the line with some people.

  2. Avatar Neil McGrath says:

    Someone has to be buying this cable. There are supposed to be regular checks and procedures in place to identify people trading in scrap metal following thefts from railway infrastructure but clearly they are not working.

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