BT battles broadband cable thieves

BT will coat its equipment in high-tech, traceable liquid to prevent the theft of copper cables. BT has seen a 9% increase in stolen copper over the past year, costing the firm millions of pounds and cutting off broadband connections. A robbery in Kent in April saw criminals make off with 3km of cable, cutting off broadband to 2,000 people.

To catch and deter criminals, the firm is turning to the SmartWater system, which a BT spokesman described as "like invisible paint with a fingerprint". Visible only under a special ultraviolet light, SmartWater features a chemical code combination that's unique for each location.
BT's engineering arm Openreach will coat its equipment and cables in the liquid, so it can be traced back to its home if stolen. Some high-risk locations will also spray SmartWater directly onto criminals, invisibly tagging their skin for up to 60 days.

“Anyone arrested for metal theft will be examined for traces of SmartWater," said Detective Inspector Robin Conway from British Transport Police, which is working with BT on the project. "A search will be made of the person’s house and any property, including vehicles with traces of SmartWater on them, is likely to be seized by police."

"Scrap metal dealers will also be visited regularly to ensure they are assisting British Transport Police in identifying criminals attempting to sell stolen metal,” he added. The system has already been trialed in North London with some success; said BT. SmartWater is also used by Network Rail to prevent criminals from pilfering its cables. Aside from the high-tech solution, Openreach will also add more patrols, improve locks, and work more with police on sting operations, BT said.

PCpro –Computing


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