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Cable Technology Feature Article

December 20, 2011

UK Police, Telecom Operator BT Jointly Crack Down on Cable Thieves

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

With metal prices high, copper theft is on the rise across the world, and UK is no exception. Stealing copper from telephone networks and earthing strips in the National Grid is a rising menace that has been the root cause of many service disruptions and power outages in UK. Plus, it has been costing the country £700 million (US $1.086 billion) per year. So UK’s Metropolitan Police Service with help from British telecom company BT (News - Alert) and members of the Bexley local authority environmental crime unit, the police has formed “The Waste and Metal Theft Task Force.” This task force was put into action in December.

ZDNet’s UK edition quoted James Coomber, operational lead for the Waste and Metal Theft Task Force, as saying, "Although the majority of scrap metal dealers are legitimate, those who are not are contributing to a thriving illegal trade which we are determined to clamp down on." He added, "We will conduct regular operations to detect and arrest those responsible for metal theft and, by working closely with the scrap yards, hope to prevent stolen metal being recycled in the first place."  

In a statement, UK’s Met police said, “The theft of a single piece of copper cable from a local telephone network can cut landlines to over 200 businesses and homes for up to three days,” wrote ZDNet UK reporter Tom Espiner. Furthermore, according to police, the copper cable theft often results in the damage of fiber-optic cable, which in-turn causes major Internet interruptions to local users, wrote Espiner.

According to the Met police, “There is evidence of organized criminals moving into cable theft, with police finding specially adapted tools and vans with trapdoors to winch up manhole covers,” as per the ZDNet UK report. This report indicates that in September on suspicion of stealing cable, the police arrested four men in Lambeth. The report shows that the thieves were using two fake BT trucks, a BT van and a winch.

A BT spokesman told ZDNet UK that the rise in cable crime is due to increase in the price of metals since 2009. As a result, as compared to 2010, the cable theft from BT’s telephone networks has risen by 12 percent this year, BT told ZDNet UK.

Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves