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Crime Networking The Internet United Kingdom Technology

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?

  • 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 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.

  • by igny (716218) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:15AM (#33907068) Homepage Journal
    Maybe if we had a lower income-gap, better paying jobs, and opportunity for people this wouldn't be such a problem?

    Alternatively we could legalize recycling of the broadband cables. A slogan: "Let's put it to a better use!"

    Remember prohibition never worked in any war on anything. I am not an expert, but does anyone know any medicinal use of the broadband copper?

    Of course that all depends on how broad is contraband of the broadband copper.
  • by JSBiff (87824) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:16AM (#33907074) Journal

    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'?

  • 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:Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:23AM (#33907118)

    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 pipe.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:35AM (#33907222)

    I think what the parent's point is that many of these folks are doing this to make a living. When one has their backs against the wall, they do desperate things.

          This is the typical bleeding heart argument. And poor drug dealers, they're just trying to make a living too.

          You realize that a morally sound person will refuse to engage in this type of activity on principle, no matter how hard up they are? These people are the scum of the earth, their parents should never have had children because certainly they had no idea how to raise them. These opportunists are out to make a quick buck because they think the world owes them something, and they have no interest (or are probably amused by) the damage they cause to society. I'm just sad that because of bleeding heart like you we're not allowed to shoot them.

  • 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.

  • 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 david@ecsd.com (45841) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:47AM (#33907368) Homepage
    The war on theft is one of those basic prohibitions that's been around since the dawn of civilization. When I leave for work in the AM, this prohibition helps to make sure my shit is still in my house when I get home. It's one of the lubricants for a smooth running society, and legalizing theft (as you seem to be advocating) is a monumentally Bad Idea.
  • Re:Scum Bags (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:47AM (#33907370)

    In Saudi Arabia a man would have his right hand amputated if caught stealing.

    Do you think having both arms and legs amputated is a more just punishment?

  • by caerwyn (38056) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:55AM (#33907456)

    I don't believe that the parent said anything about not *blaming* the perpetrators for the crime. But punishment, in and of itself, is rarely a solution to anything- witness the perpetual failure that is the war on drugs.

    It's perfectly reasonable to suggest that we investigate and attempt to fix the causes of crimes, *in addition* the punishing those caught perpetrating them.

    The world is not black and white. Your "you must be a bleeding heart who's causing all our problems by not letting us shoot petty criminals" attitude is not a solution, it's part of the problem.

  • Re:Perhaps (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:56AM (#33907460)

    Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

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

  • by Klinky (636952) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:15AM (#33907686)

    There are actually quite a few morally questionable actions that are ignored everyday, performed by employees of corporations. Just because you have a legal job, doesn't mean you aren't screwing somebody over directly or part of a corporation that does it.

    Not that this excuses thieves in general. Bad behavior is bad behavior.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:24AM (#33907794) Journal

    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. One where we put homeless people to work (and if you won't work you can god damn STARVE). Don't have work? Get a plod of land and tell them they can work growing food. They can have the food. They will learn a skill, they will feed themselves, it will improve their persons.

    I want a society where poor people look for work; not where poor people hold a sign saying "Will Work for Food" and ask people if they have any work for them, and then as soon as someone says "You can have $20 if you help me paint the shed..." they shy away and find a mark that'll give them a dollar for nothing. Yes, homeless people do that.

  • 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).

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday October 15, 2010 @11:52AM (#33908850)

    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 experienced the punishment, they aren't interested in it happening again. Also, and this is something our prisons are NOT good at, you try to help give them options when they get out. Basically it is a case of "Ok you fucked up and now you pay the consequences. We don't ever want to see you back, and we hope that you don't want to come back." However if that doesn't work you go of:

    3) Removal. If someone just keeps causing problems, you don't have a lot of other choices. I mean I suppose you could let them just keep committing crimes but that really isn't an option, and kinda makes a mockery of the idea of a justice system. So you just lock them up. When they are in prison, they can't be out committing crimes. May well mean they spend most of their life there, that just may be what is needed.

    Well #3 is the point you get to with some people. It isn't a matter of hard sentences for the sake of being a hardass, it is because you've had enough of the shit. They won't learn their lesson, it is time to just keep them out of trouble. You can't do anything else because they are too stupid, or they have an addiction and aren't willing to fight it (you can't force cure an addict, they have to choose to fight it and only then can you help them).

    Now I'm not saying our system as-is is perfect, but that is where part of it comes from. Perhaps what we need is something not as harsh as prison, a work camp like system where you go if you are a massive repeat offender, but not for serious things. You continually steal, nothing helps, fine now your sentences start to be long stretches in a structured environment where you are kept out of trouble. Not because we hate you, just because we need you to stop causing problems for other people.

  • Re:Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blackest_k (761565) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:23PM (#33909250) Homepage Journal

    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 is a big mistake for a security guard or staff member to stop someone on the basis of the detector because of the false positives.

    However often store security is independent of the store a description of the individual may be passed on the radio to other guards and store detectives in other stores in the vicinity. Most shop lifters do not restrict themselves to one store and will visit several in a day and fore warned the security will be paying extra attention in the next store and maybe this time catch them in the act and be 100% sure when they go after the thief they are guilty they saw goods being taken and they were not ditched before the thief left the store.

    Actually when it comes down to it a lot of the security work is keeping an eye on known thieves and making it difficult for them to steal something by being around while the thief is in the store. Too be quite frank catching people stealing is a joke. I remember one case of a thief who was using a bag specially lined with foil to hide the tag signal who took 600 worth of designer jeans was stopped arrested and in the end ordered to pay 20 in compensation to the store.

    Making an arrest can be dangerous in itself as thieves can be armed or lash out, I remember one arrest where one of the guards came back into the store after being kicked in the family jewels. I imagine in other countries it can be worse.

    It does vary a lot by country in Poland I have seen stores where you routinely check in your bags go through the tills and then the security guard goes through your bag checking off your purchases against your receipt.

    Really what it comes down to is deterring the thieves and making them go elsewhere.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:39PM (#33909478) Journal

    Good call, then, when your daughter does something to dishonour the family, you can just kill her!

    You mean like when your daughter becomes a hooker and you disown her and never talk to her again? Then she becomes addicted to drugs and nobody is ever there to help her, and then she dies at 25 in the street....

    You're failing to consider that peoples' attitude changes with culture. Societies that put a lot of money on personal honor are filled with people that seek work or worth, people that feel they don't have the right to die because they owe someone a debt and if they don't pay it then it's just as good as stealing food from their table. Societies that have no care for such thing, on the other hand, are filled with people that lie, cheat, and steal whenever they're in a pinch; and people that don't give a shit to help them. Also we have this debt economy where we keep taking loans until we die, and then nobody pays back the loans.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday October 15, 2010 @12:51PM (#33909624) Homepage

    Ahh, I see you completely missed my point. So I'll be explicit:

    You have an idiotic, simplistic, idealized view of eastern societies in general, and "honour-based societies" in particular. Your views on these cultures betray your life as a basement dweller idealizing Klingons and ninjas in bad action films. Your views are no more grounded or realistic than The Karate Kid, and are about as useful in dealing with the real life problems of American society as the Crane Kick is in a street fight.

  • by Quothz (683368) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:04PM (#33909800) Journal

    There's a simple explanation to that: In the 90ies it was discovered that the maximum carrier frequency of fiber optics is around 1-2 GHz, while there's new milestones been reached over copper wire every couple of years.

    This may surprise you, but some time has passed since the 90s. DWDM has been demoed to carry 400Gb/s on one fiber and Lucent's making noises about raising the bar to 600 Gb/s. 20 Gb/s multiplexers for fiber are relatively cheap and are becoming ubiquitous.

  • Re:Perhaps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpe (36238) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:23PM (#33910086)
    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.
  • 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?

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday October 15, 2010 @01:34PM (#33910234) Journal

    I don't watch TV.

    The world around me is very, very sick. That much is clear; but it's sick on the level of individuals, not just on "TEH GUBERMANS ARE CURRUPT!" It's sick on the level of 1984, and of reading 1984: people cite 1984 as an example of government corruption, but they mainly miss the behavior of people in the party; and more importantly, they miss the importance of the social consciousness of the proles. The proles reflect our current society, on the individual level: complaining about the world, but completely hollowly and with no reflection on their own lives.

    There are many, many people talking about the sad state of this world. They talk about politics-- either favoring one side or calling both sides corrupt. They talk about religion-- either the sad failing of important religious values or the sad persistence of outdated religious superstitions.

    Yet they completely miss the underlying problem of failing ethic, the lack of any cohesive philosophy in the general population. All morals and ethics are mutable as convenient; crimes are only crimes because they're inconvenient, and laws that inconvenience the individual are obviously wrong because we can't see how they could possibly be bad. For example, people speaking out about the banning of marijuana (or even opium), while at the same time criticizing the legality of cigarettes; all the while swearing that society would be better off if everyone had legal access to cocaine and heroin, choosing their rationalization based on desired logical conclusion.

    Following the pre-WW2 Japanese philosophy, warriors cutting their way through Korea should have fought other warriors and made the attempt to protect peaceful Koreans that either couldn't fight or didn't WANT to fight (most people just want food and safety). That would, after all, be the honorable thing to do: what honor is there in murdering women and children, and men who just want the safety of their family and are willing to stand aside quietly for that safety. But of course, the Japanese did run through those cities burning buildings and killing civilians with no compassion. Their philosophy was dead on; but implementation was lacking.

    I can't idealize any society, even those functioning better than our world in general does today. They've all had flaws. That said, I think the attempt was better than what we have now. Honestly, look around you: we live in a world where a car manufacturer weighs the monetary cost of class action suits and wrongful death suits against the monetary costs of fixing KNOWN flaws in the design of the Ford Pinto that will cause occasional deaths. There is a price on a man's life-- not a strategic assassination, but on the idea that what we're doing will kill random people by negligence, and how much will that cost us to clean up after versus taking steps to prevent such death?

    This negligence is dishonest. This negligence will cost peoples' lives for profit. Why do we live in a society where people are raised to think this is acceptable?

The UNIX philosophy basically involves giving you enough rope to hang yourself. And then a couple of feet more, just to be sure.