BT Openreach turns to Crimestoppers to catch cable thieves

Openreach extends its partnership with crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers to tackle cable theft

BT’s infrastructure wing Openreach has reaffirmed its commitment to protecting its vulnerable cable assets from theft after extending its partnership with the Crimestoppers charity for a fifth year.

The theft of cables from the Openreach network causes serious disruption to both residential and business broadband users, and is thought to have been behind a number of major outages in recent years.

In 2013, a large part of London was knocked offline for three days after Openreach fibre cables in Brentford were cut by thieves looking for copper to sell.

Cable theft can be a particularly difficult problem to tackle, as indiscriminate attacks mean it is generally impossible, or at least very hard, to anticipate where criminals may strike next.

BT has taken a number of steps over the years to try to reduce the scale of the problem, including tagging cables with SmartWater, a forensic marking liquid that enables police to track recovered metal to the source of the crime.

It has also worked extensively with the scrap metal trade to help legitimate resellers stay legal and identify stolen material entering the supply chain.

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Crimestoppers said that it received a total of 50 tip-offs relating to theft of Openreach-owned cables in the past 12 months.

However, from those reports it revealed that only two arrests had actually been made by police, even after rewards of up to £1,000 had been offered for information.

Crimestoppers business development director Rodger Holden said the partnership was going from strength to strength.

“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,” he said.

Bernie Auguste head of security for Openreach 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."

People with information on network cable thefts – or other crimes – can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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