Northern Ireland

BT taskforce tackles cable theft

telephone cables
Telephone cables will now be coated in SmartWater to "tag" those who steal them

Copper theft is a growing problem for the communication network in Northern Ireland, BT has said.

In recent weeks, stolen cables have caused disruption to phone lines in south Tyrone and in Banbridge copper cable was cut at 16 junction boxes.

Also in the last few days cabling has been stolen from poles along a number of roads in Londonderry.

BT's head of security has travelled to NI to meet the PSNI to discuss the use of new technology to combat the crime.

"Copper is contained within our cables and has a value, however the amount within our cables is not significant," said Luke Beeson.

"It negatively affects everyone who relies on access to phones and broadband, disrupting local businesses and isolating vulnerable people."

BT have established a Metal Theft Taskforce which will work with police forces throughout the UK to try to tackle the thefts.

"We're doing a lot of work with the metal recycling industry and scrap metal dealers to try and choke the market for stolen metal," Mr Beeson said.

"It is a key priority to make sure ill-gotten gain cannot be sold."

The company will also be introducing SmartWater to its Northern Ireland infrastructure.

"It is a forensically traceable invisible liquid which we are applying to our cables so offenders are running the risk of being tagged with this solution which can link them back to the scene of the crime," said Mr Beeson.

The marking liquid is unique to a particular location.

It is used to mark the outer shell and inner core of BT cable, tools and other equipment. It will mean anyone who steals the cable will carry evidence on their skin and clothing

There have been three convictions for cable theft in the UK using this technology.

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