Wednesday 30 November, 2011
By Anthony Hill
Thefts are leaving home phone customers without a landline for weeks
Police in Scotland are leading the fight against criminals who steal telephone cables.
Entire villages have had their landlines cut off as thieves dig up the copper wires, with the aim of selling them to metal dealers for cash. Railway cabling is another common target, with thefts causing significant delays and costing train operators millions.
Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill is launching a consultation on metal dealer licensing, in a bid to clamp down on cable thieves, whose actions have a “huge impact” on communities across Britain. It is hoped that other UK authorities will follow Scotland’s lead.
MacAskill said: “If we can provide standards in the industry through licensing, then this can reduce the outlets for stolen metal and hence the incentive to steal. Licensing can ensure that better records are kept, CCTV cameras are installed and checks on the identity of a customer are conducted.”
According to the justice secretary, thieves often make less than £50 from stolen cables, but repair work can take weeks to complete and costs run into tens of thousands each time. Thefts also see home phone and internet services, often for whole villages, cut off.
Villagers in Finchampstead, near Wokingham in Berkshire, are only today having their landlines switched back on, almost three weeks after metal thieves tried to ransack the local exchange, reports the Wokingham Times.
Despite being a failed attempt to steal cables, the resulting damage, which occurred during the early hours of Thursday 10 November, has seen more than 250 homes and businesses without a telephone line ever since.
Photo by Kashklick