Tuesday, 3 July 2012

UK Metal Theft - Telephone Cabling

There has been a significant increase in the theft of copper across the United Kingdom in the past few years. This is due to a number of reasons, but predominately the rising price of copper, the recession and finally, the simplicity of the theft. I personally know of people in rural areas who have been affected by this up to three times in six months – each time, they are left without any telephone line and thus broadband for three or four days.

Some simple facts about the rise in metal theft (over a two year period)
The theft of metal across the UK has risen over 700%!
There have been a total of six deaths and fifty injuries related to this type of crime!
Some sixty fires have been caused, along with 673 days of delayed trains!

I'm sure you will agree, these statistics are staggering, however the further you delve into the statistics, the more shocking things get. British Telecom have said that over the past 11 months, there have been 480 arrests, along with 240 tonnes of recovered stolen copper. Up to 80% of BT's cable theft is said to be carried out by organised criminals.

Something had to be done about this and the tail end of 2011 had seen a large increase in raids by polic on scrap metal yards, although because of the very nature of the commodity this did not see a lot of success due to the fact that the copper can be easily melted down. There have even been reports of BT copper cable being stolen from the roadside and then shipped to China – in what is being coined 'theft-tourism'.

If you are one of BT''s customers' who this has affected, you will know just how much of an inconvenience this has caused. It is not known how much money business' across the UK have lost due to being essentially disconnected from the outside world, however, one thing is for sure, it's certainly not going to be a small figure.

However, things are set to change! This month, BT have introduced a widespread new technology 'RABIT' – Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker'. The technology had been piloted in certain areas in December 2011 and initial results suggest this could drastically reduce BT's metal theft figures.

RABIT is essentially a burglar alarm. The technology runs on the BT network, and instantly informs BT and local law enforcement of malicious attacks, pinpointing the exact location. Therefore, any would-be-copper-thief would now have to remove the copper and be gone within minutes to evade being caught. An impressive improvement on the hours that it would have taken before to first discover that cable theft was causing faults, and then to find it.

It is still early days on this technology, but BT and police forces across the country are both confident that this is going to be a huge improvement on customer satisfaction due to less downtime, whilst also catching the criminals red handed. Watch this space!