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Putting the Squeeze On Broadband Copper Robbers 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the bubbs-is-at-it-again dept.
nk497 writes "As the price of copper rises, thieves have taken to stealing broadband cables, taking out internet connections and slowing down the rollout of super-fast broadband by giving engineers more work to do. To battle the criminals, UK provider BT has 21 investigators on staff to track down thieves and has started using SmartWater bombs that spray stolen property and the criminals. The SmartWater liquid carries a DNA fingerprint that links a criminal to the scene of the crime and police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains to make an arrest after the trap has been sprung. 'We had one case recently where someone in Dagenham was stopped and searched after acting suspiciously and the police used a UV light on them and could show that they had been tampering with the equipment,' said Auguste. The SmartWater liquid can also be pasted inside cables, making them easier to trace — and less appealing to scrap metal buyers, helping to cut demand for stolen copper."
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Putting the Squeeze On Broadband Copper Robbers

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  • Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shitzu (931108) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:48AM (#33906838)

    Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

    • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pojut (1027544) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:49AM (#33906846) Homepage

      We had one case recently where someone in Dagenham was stopped and searched after acting suspiciously.

      When will people learn to stop acting suspiciously after they do something they aren't supposed to do?

      If someone were to try to rip out newly-installed fiber, would they walk around pointing to their glasses?

      • Mod Parent Up (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hedwards (940851) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:14AM (#33907060)
        If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. One of the things I've noticed is that you can often walk out of a store through a beeping loss control device, by behaving as if it isn't going off. Also certain shops with those detectors have ones that malfunction and the staff tends to ignore it. It's probably because store staff don't have arresting power in misdemeanor theft around here.

        It applies to most things, if you don't want somebody executing a felony arrest warrant on you, the easiest way to avoid that is by not driving like an idiot. It's not fool proof, but it's the most common way for those arrest warrants to lead to an arrest.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I walked out of Sainsbury's with a bottle of whisky that the cashier hadn't taken the tag off of. I just pretended that nothing had happened and continued on my merry way without being challenged. It probably helped that I was drunk at the time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by blackest_k (761565)

          It depends on what country you are in but for some false arrest can cost 1000's. Couple this with the fact that many different stores even libraries use the same kinds of tag and the detectors cannot tell the difference.

          The detectors going off are not detecting a theft but usually just the presence of a tag quite possibly a tag from a completely different store.

          So for store security the detectors are mostly a waste of time, its security theatre and it is up to the individual to cooperate with it or not. It

      • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AaxelB (1034884) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:23AM (#33907116)

        When will people learn to stop acting suspiciously after they do something they aren't supposed to do?

        A large subset of thieves (and many other types of criminals) are also stupid, or have low self-control. If you can control yourself and are reasonably smart, you can probably profit more through various less risky legal means.

        • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:41AM (#33907286)

          Very relevant point indeed. An argument I often have with the hard-on-crime lot. They propose punishments would deter them - but they are not criminals in the first place. The real criminals are, all too often, stupid and/or ill educated and/or have mental health problems and/or addiction problems. A system tuned to deterring comfortable middle glass good (in law at least) citizens simply doesn't work against the kind of people who commit 95% of crime. But it is those middle-class voters who set the legal agenda.

          • Re:Perhaps (Score:4, Funny)

            by tehcyder (746570) on Friday October 15, 2010 @11:48AM (#33908818) Journal

            An argument I often have with the hard-on-crime lot.

            You mean flashers and rapists?

            Yes, I deliberately ignored the second hyphen for attempted comic effect.

          • So you can look at your justice system as having three goals, in order:

            1) Deterrence. The first and foremost goal is to have consequences so that people simply don't do shit they aren't supposed to. You try to deter as many people as possible by saying "If you do this, we punish you," and hopefully people say "Well I don't wanna be punished, I'm not going to do that." When that doesn't work you move on to:

            2) Rehabilitation. You make good on the threat, you punish them. You try and make it so that, having ex

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by confused one (671304)
      People have pulled fiber thinking it's copper...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

      Perhaps people shouldn't be stealing what they don't own...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by myov (177946)

      Won't stop them from trying.

      About 10 years ago,cable modems across Ontario (Canada) were knocked off the AtHome network. Thieves dug up and cut the fibre thinking it was copper, then tried again with the backup.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by delinear (991444)
        That's because copper was then, and still is, pretty ubiquitous. A global move to fibre would result in thieves realising pretty quickly that there's no real money to be made there. It sounds like a better deterrent than DNA water - that's fine if you can catch the criminals, but it's not going to put the average criminal off trying, because he likely doesn't have the foggiest idea what it is. I'd also like to know what stops a thief bottling some of this DNA water and walking into the nearest nightclub and
    • Re:Perhaps (Score:4, Funny)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:39AM (#33907964) Journal

      Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

      Having that much trouble shitting?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpe (36238)
      Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

      By the time the thieves realise that they have the wrong type of cable they are likely to have damaged if not completly severed it.
  • Enhance! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Stratoukos (1446161) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:49AM (#33906844)

    Why get in so much trouble?

    Can't they just enhance a Google Maps photo?

  • Copper broadband? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:50AM (#33906854)
    Scrap metal recyclers don't pay much for fiber optics, just saying.
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:51AM (#33906860)

    The SmartWater liquid carries DNA

    So now we're calling it smart water?

    Also, eeeeew! eeew! God why! eeeew!

    And also, the marketing concept of "smart drink" has just gone to hell.

    And finally. "Smart water? Who came with that idea?"

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Pojut (1027544)

      And finally. "Smart water? Who came with that idea?"quote>

      Ever heard of Masaru Emoto? [wikipedia.org]

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        no, had never heard of him. So basically Emoto has wasted his life on stupidity, and convinced others to do the same. sad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ginbot462 (626023)

      On the plus side, Smart Water bottles themselves are a great size/form factor with heavier plastic than most brands - I bought a case for that reason. Sort of like "disposable" Tupperware.

  • These crooks are just the lowest of the low - there've been churches round my way that have had lead taken from the roof, schools dismantled and road signs removed. So I would like to see this fingerprinting rolled out and used more generally. In fact - can you get it in permanent ink?
  • Simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by germansausage (682057) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:01AM (#33906936)
    Do the same for scrap metal dealers what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments. Payment by cheque only, mailed to the name and address of the government ID of the person selling the scrap metal. Discourages 90% of the "disorganized" (i.e. drug addicts and homeless) opportunistic or desperation type theft. The delay also lets the power and telco companies come around and retrieve their stolen goods before they get shipped off or melted down.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The delay also lets the power and telco companies come around and retrieve their stolen goods before they get shipped off or melted down.

      By the time stolen wiring gets to a scrap dealer it is generally in no state to be used for its original purpose. The only way it'd be worth retrieving is if it was wire/cable still on the original spool with undamaged insulation. And any scrap dealer that would even think of buying that knows damn well that they are buying stolen materials. Ditto when some twitchy methhead shows up with hundreds of pounds of copper wiring that got "burned up in a fire" or a similar amount of nice shiny household copper

    • by cowscows (103644)

      Then we can look forwards to the desperation type thieves moving on to mugging us instead of just taking metal off of our buildings.

      Get used to more and more crime, as our economy continues to unravel, more of the middle class is pushed into poverty, and much more of the population becomes desperate. And of course the people in charge will attempt to solve this problem by spending more on law enforcement and building new prisons while proudly claiming how tough they are on crime, when we'd get a better retu

    • Do the same for scrap metal dealers what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments. Payment by cheque only, mailed to the name and address of the government ID of the person selling the scrap metal. Discourages 90% of the "disorganized" (i.e. drug addicts and homeless) opportunistic or desperation type theft. The delay also lets the power and telco companies come around and retrieve their stolen goods before they get shipped off or melted down.

      Whenever I've sold scrap metal in the US, they've taken down my vehicle and driver's license number and cut me a check. And they're unwilling to buy building materials without some documentation of their provenance. Naturally, some scrap dealers must be rather less ethical and law-abiding than those I've dealt with, because copper guttering still gets ripped off churches.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Do the same for scrap metal dealers what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments.

      Huh, sounds like it's time to get into the scrap metal fencing business...

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Just record the transaction. No need to wait.

    • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dasdrewid (653176) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:50AM (#33908094)

      what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments.

      That sucks. Half the point of a pawn shop is "oh shit, I have to pay rent in 2 days but don't get paid for 4!" A short term loan where you get to choose your collateral (and which, if you default on, they're not going to come after your house or whatever).

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by multipartmixed (163409) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:01AM (#33906938) Homepage

    police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains

    This sounds like something out of a mother's-basement-dweller's worst nightmare!

  • (one page print version: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/361783/putting-the-squeeze-on-the-broadband-copper-robbers/print [pcpro.co.uk])

    Since we're slashvertising, I had a bit of a play with Smartwater several years ago - it's actually very good stuff. Essentially, they've figured out a way to put a long unique code into UV reflective paste (which is pretty hard to clean off stuff - although not impossible, so it's best to put it in hard-to-reach places). You slap it onto anything you want to protect; the police can find

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      "The Smartwater people keep your particular code unique for as long as you pay them rental of it."

      That statement has a logical inconsistency. Either it's unique or it's not. I'd be pretty peeved if I was their customer, and found out the prosecution of someone stealing from me got screwed up because 5 years ago, a different customer was using the same code, stopped paying for it, and they re-assigned the code to me. If the code is sufficiently long, there is no reason for them to ever ever re-use a code. We

    • by AaxelB (1034884)

      They claim [wired.com] to be able to encode over 10 billion unique values, so I doubt they plan ever to reuse codes -- they'll improve the product or go out of business long before they get 10 billion sales. The fee is probably to pay for using their lab to check for matches (also, it's far more lucrative than a one-time fee). So... I'm also curious what they do if they find a match that's not being paid for. Ethically, it would be nice if they told the police. From a business perspective, they don't want customers to

    • and can get the unique code by asking the Smartwater boffins to analyse it.

      They trained birds to analyze DNA coded paste? Not the method I would employ but it's damned impressive.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:12AM (#33907034) Homepage

    There are two types of theft: stealing for necessity (food, medicine and such) and stealing for pleasure.

    The guy who steals because he's starving is not even remotely the same as the guy who steals something which he doesn't need to survive.

    There was a time when the latter were regarded without any mercy and rightly as the scum that they are. You could use force, even deadly force when necessary, in defense of property that no one needs to meet basic human needs.

    Guess what? People pulled this shit a lot less often back then.

    The irony of the accusation that letting people use serious force to defend their property is a form of barbarism is that the unlawful taking of property, especially when it damages entire parts of the community, is a real form of barbarism. Basic crime is a rejection of civil society.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JSBiff (87824)

      How long do you think it will be before people 'mask' murder as 'defending their property'. I believe in a justice system where criminals are tried based upon evidence presented to a jury of 12 members of the community, not people killing other people when their life (or *someones* life) is not in immediate jeopardy. Also, how do you, all-knowing one, know whether a man is stealing for survival or stealing 'for pleasure'?

    • by psergiu (67614)

      You can move to South Africa :)
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/232777.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:43AM (#33907318)
      If I steal an apple from your fruit bowl, I can feed myself for a couple of hours.

      If I steal your 52" plasma screen TV and fence it, I can feed myself for a month at least.

      What I steal isn't the issue. Why I steal it isn't either. A homeless person stealing your TV is no less serious than a couple of chavs out with his mates doing the same thing. Theft is theft. If we looked after the homeless and less well off, we wouldn't have them stealing our stuff. At that point, we'd only have the opportunist and the greedy, which could well be dealt with by the methods you outlined. However, we need to care for the needy first.
      • by Abcd1234 (188840)

        However, we need to care for the needy first.

        Communist! Class warfare! Hitler!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572)

        The idea that we as a society need to care for the needy isn't really a bad one. The idea that the government needs to care for the needy is ridiculous. The idea that "We" need to "Care for the Needy" referencing the government is socialism (the concept of the government being "We" as opposed to a public servant, etc... The "Peoples'" Republic of China, you know?).

        What we need is an honor system like old Eastern philosophies had. One where we care more about honor and philosophy than money and economics

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Are you suggesting we form a copper posse? Because if you can supply us with S'more Schnapps, firearms, and horses, I'll join right now.
    • The irony of the accusation that letting people use serious force to defend their property is a form of barbarism is that the unlawful taking of property, especially when it damages entire parts of the community, is a real form of barbarism. Basic crime is a rejection of civil society.

      The idea that use of force in defense of your property is somehow bad is barbarianism. Old Japanese culture rested a lot on honor and dignity and such shit; whereas Western culture was always economics. We see value in human life, and we translate that into value in protecting life, and then into person: not only is it seen as a "loss" if you kill someone, but it's also a serious loss for society if you give them a sound but relatively harmless thrashing (even a broken arm will heal; bruises and bleedin

  • Meanwhile, in the USA, Smartwater is something very different indeed [glaceau.com]!

  • As he was building up a wireless network in Indonesia. He told be, if they put copper up, someone would steal it.

    On the other hand, he worked for RCA in New Jersey. The location put up a chained linked fence. And that got stolen.

    Who the hell steals a fence? Ok, his name is Tony . . . .

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:18AM (#33907088) Homepage Journal

    So, I mess with your package, and I get sprayed with a florescent liquid containing DNA.

    I hope they don't try to patent this, as I think there may be prior art.

  • Line test... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    For a while now, thieves in the UK have been testing whether an access pit contains copper or fibre by chucking a bit of petrol and a match in. If it burns green, they've hit the jackpot, they put it out and pinch the copper cabling. Otherwise they just sod off and leave it burning. Nice.

  • Collect the cool, refreshing smart water and splash it on your mark's car. Pop the lock and splash it on his seat and steering wheels around 4am; roll the window down a bit before you do so. Make sure your chosen mark has the same kind of car as you. Also, wear a rain coat and rain hat and vinyl pants and gloves and boots, and dispose of all this after (before getting in YOUR car...). Put the cables in an isolation chamber (a cooler).
  • Wait, industry reports from radio to railroad have been been saying that copper theft is down because copper is also down.

    Whom am I supposed to believe?

  • how do the coppers cope with copper capers?

  • Ok, this worrys me a bit if used in another application.

    What if this were used to mark protesters at a rally?

    • by Tim C (15259)

      And that's quicker, easier, cheaper, more permanent and less likely to be protested against (in the media I mean) than just photographing/filming the protesters how?

  • The SmartWater liquid carries a DNA fingerprint that links a criminal to the scene of the crime and police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains to make an arrest after the trap has been sprung.

    That's why my kids drink SmartWater at breakfast. Just in case..

  • Wants to be free~

  • Just put a nice 30kV bias on the wire and let the problem take care of itself. Any time I hear about attempted power line theft, the people who were involved are charcoal.
    • They were after the grounding strap, which hopefully wasn't carrying much in the way of current. He'd already knocked the protective shield loose with a crowbar. The racket drew my attention. When I confronted him he told me exactly what he was doing and carried right on until I dragged out my cell phone and called it in.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:24PM (#33910102) Homepage

    It is too easy. In Arizona most people have their electric panel outside the house. That means by opening the panel you gain access to pounds of copper - you just have to pull real hard.

    Similarly, neighborhoods have park land with lights. The wiring connecting these to power to extremely vulnerable and has been stolen in a number of locations. Of course, nobody is talking about this because they don't want to encourage people.

    The problem is going to get worse. When you have bands of people that have little to lose, why not try to steal some wires. The scrap metal dealers are sufficiently isolated from the criminal acts that they really don't care where the wire came from, especially if it isn't obviously a spool of cable that might have been stolen. So you can fill up a pickup truck with wire scraps and make $100 or more.

    Any construction site is fair game. Any park with lights is a target. Homes that aren't in some gated subdivision are pretty easy as well. Parks near my house have been victimized, one has been hit twice. And this is going to generally be considered to be a victimless crime - nobody got hurt and whatever was destroyed was probably insured.

    Even if they put up enough dummy cameras and a few live ones to make people think twice about this, there are plenty of sources. How much copper do you think is in the average car?

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