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Some Londoners Cut Off As Failed Copper Thieves Take Fiber

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the friday-the-13th dept.

Crime 184

judgecorp writes "About 37,000 Sky broadband and phone customers lost their connection, as incompetent copper thieves raided BT's infrastructure... and took fibre. Some scrap metal dealers will pay £4 per kg for stolen copper cables, but there is no dark market for fibre, so the thieves didn't make anything — which might be some small consolation to customers, some of whom had to wait for two days for BT to repair the inaccessible cables."

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184 comments

failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (2)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 4 months ago | (#45685579)

or Crispy Kritters as the constables call them

Re:failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (3, Funny)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 4 months ago | (#45685867)

repair the inaccessible cables

Well not to the thieves...

Re:failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 4 months ago | (#45686467)

Well, it depends. Obviously running cable through a conduit is somewhat more labour-intensive than pulling it out, especially if the conduit isn't vertical. In this case I'm not sure it was all that inaccessible, though, given that the thieves went through a manhole cover; surely that suggests at least a reasonable passage to crawl through.

Re:failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | about 4 months ago | (#45686715)

Perhaps inaccessible meant difficult for a fiber splicing guy with his fusion splicing equipment to get to?

Re:failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (5, Funny)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 months ago | (#45685953)

Great anecdote (or myth) about copper thieves from my area. Supposedly (and i've never actually confirmed this story, but it sure sounds good). Some copper thieves purchased a old power company truck at auction, which still had the giant spool assembly on it. They modified this spool rig to run in reverse very quickly, and supposedly, over the course of a few days or weeks, went along several miles of phone line on poles and detached the cable from the insulators, and left it lying on the crossbeams of the telephone poles. This meant that the phone system still worked. Then, on the final night, they went out, cut the line at both ends of their work, hooked it to the truck, and spooled it up. They took two miles of copper in a matter of minutes.

This story goes well with the story that some drug runners bought the same model pickup as the local power company used, painted the local power company's logo on it, and was driving on private back country roads to avoid the border patrol stations, pretending to be inspecting lines, or whatever, until some rancher noticed that the logo was hand painted and had a spelling error or some such nonsense.

of course, all this is probably fiction designed to scare the outsiders, but it sure makes for good entertainment!

Re:failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (0)

tompaulco (629533) | about 4 months ago | (#45686679)

Also in the U.S. after auto-darwinating, the copper thief's family sues [justia.com] the city, building owner and local electric company, resulting in draconian new laws which have devastated home prices in the area.News 9 [news9.com]

Re:failed copper thieves in the US are deep-fried (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#45686885)

You seem to have missed the link that explains what the "draconian new laws" are, or their effect on home prices. And FWIW, in Oklahoma, "Theft of Copper" is a felony. I know this because a case was on the TV news a few years ago when I went up for a few days to visit relatives.

There's a solution you know (2)

msobkow (48369) | about 4 months ago | (#45685593)

Declare the copper thieves terrorists and have them shot.

Re:There's a solution you know (5, Insightful)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 4 months ago | (#45685601)

Destruction of public infrastructure should be it's own, separate charge, on top of the theft.

Re:There's a solution you know (1)

thewils (463314) | about 4 months ago | (#45685623)

Something akin to removal of appendages like in the 'old' days would seem to be appropriate.
or...
If they really want to live in a place with no infrastructure then exile to a barren island would be a suggestion..

Re:There's a solution you know (3, Funny)

sabri (584428) | about 4 months ago | (#45686097)

If they really want to live in a place with no infrastructure then exile to a barren island would be a suggestion..

We've tried that before... That island now has its own Fiber Network [nbnco.com.au] ... :)

Re:There's a solution you know (3, Informative)

HJED (1304957) | about 4 months ago | (#45686207)

You should read the news more, sadly the new incompetent government has abandoned the old incompetent government's plan to build the network (for all intents and purposes anyway - we're getting obsolete copper instead)

Re:There's a solution you know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685669)

And a citation for inappropriate apostrophe usage.

Re:There's a solution you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685697)

Sentence fragment.

Re:There's a solution you know (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 4 months ago | (#45685827)

I think we do in the UK. You're certainly not allowed to touch any cables or equipment that is beyond the demarcation box or master socket. Anyone?

Re:There's a solution you know (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 4 months ago | (#45685929)

They should be locked up for a long time in whatever the UK version of "federal pound me in the ass prison" is these days.

Re:There's a solution you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686031)

You'll never see that passed in the US considering how much power Wal-Mart has over the Republican party. Wal-Mart will never own-up to their attacks on the US Internet infrastructure. I know I couldn't get to amazon.com on Monday after a Wal-Mart truck took-out a telephone pole downtown near the CenturyLink CO.

Re:There's a solution you know (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 months ago | (#45686201)

Destruction of public infrastructure is not only not a separate charge in the UK, there is even a whole party [conservatives.com] that advocates for it!

Re:There's a solution you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686285)

Destruction of public infrastructure should be it's own, separate charge, on top of the theft.

A separate charge per person affected.

Re:There's a solution you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685773)

Declare them looters and the police will have a field day.

Re:There's a solution you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686157)

Declare the copper thieves Irish and have them given shots.

Re:There's a solution you know (1)

Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) | about 4 months ago | (#45686359)

Declare the copper thieves terrorists and have them shot.

Firm but fair!

I do seriously think that any crime that is an attack on "infrastructure" should be punished more harshly though, so phone lines/exchange equipment, and also things like train signalling cables which also happens (in the UK anyway).

So high in Fiber, You'll crap rainbows! (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 4 months ago | (#45685609)

As someone who has spliced fiber: It's such a PITA, no wonder no one's buying it. I almost feel sorry for the NSA goons who had to splice all that fiber optic cable to create PRISM. A couple of days to restore operation is awesome. Kudos to Sky broadband workers who repaired the cluster fsck.

Re:So high in Fiber, You'll crap rainbows! (3, Insightful)

rhook (943951) | about 4 months ago | (#45685833)

PITA? The splicer does most of the work for you.

Re:So high in Fiber, You'll crap rainbows! (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 4 months ago | (#45686053)

I almost feel sorry for the NSA goons who had to splice all that fiber optic cable to create PRISM.

Don't worry. I'm sure they didn't have to do any of the work themselves. The telcos were probably more than happy to do it for three times the usual rate, paid for by the government (the taxpayers being spied on in other words).

"Dark Market"? (2, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 4 months ago | (#45685621)

I have never heard of a "dark market" before. Is this a more "PC" way of saying "Black Market"? I know I recently heard people asserting that "Black Friday" is racist, so is "Black Market" also racist?

Re:"Dark Market"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685663)

No, the PC term would be 'pigmented market'

Re: "Dark Market"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685685)

Bet ! It is.

Re:"Dark Market"? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685723)

It's called an "African-American Market" these days.

Re:"Dark Market"? (0)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 months ago | (#45685789)

It's called an "African-American Market" these days.

Wow... I'm pretty sure that's 100x worse.

Re:"Dark Market"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685893)

Im sure this is even worse: Nigger market

Re:"Dark Market"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686083)

no one buys those any more. for whatever few cleaning tricks you teach them it's not worth the filth and destruction they can do to a city, feral packs of them have been known to kill people too.

Re:"Dark Market"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685801)

I think he was trying to be clever by using similar wording as the term "dark fiber".

Re:"Dark Market"? (0, Flamebait)

msobkow (48369) | about 4 months ago | (#45686253)

Yeah, it's PC phrasing. Because the actual niggers out there think every mention of "black" *must* be about them.

I define "nigger" as a "black person with a chip on their shoulder" or "black person with an attitude problem." The same goes for every racist epithet I've ever used; it's never been about the colour of your skin -- it's about your screwed up attitude and self-indulgent worry that everyone is always talking about you.

I don't know you. I don't give two shits about you. Believe me, when I refer to "black", it's about colour and nothing more.

Re:"Dark Market"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686353)

I define "nigger" as a "black person with a chip on their shoulder" or "black person with an attitude problem." The same goes for every racist epithet I've ever used; it's never been about the colour of your skin -- it's about your screwed up attitude and self-indulgent worry that everyone is always talking about you.

So to summarize you use racist epithets at members of racial minorities in retaliation for their self-centered racism which is built on the false assumption that other people are being racist towards them.

Is that right?

Re:"Dark Market"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686727)

I define "nigger" as a "black person with a chip on their shoulder" or "black person with an attitude problem." The same goes for every racist epithet I've ever used; it's never been about the colour of your skin -- it's about your screwed up attitude and self-indulgent worry that everyone is always talking about you.

Which agrees with how blacks typically use the term, and claim it's not racist when they use it. Double standard imho..

Simple solution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685641)

Embed power lines into the fiber optic cables. When the thieves try to steal it, they get this. [bestgore.com]

Re:Simple solution (2)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | about 4 months ago | (#45685735)

Nice link, but next time a NSFW warning would be appreciated - not for the pictures of the burnt thieves, that's no biggie, but for the rather risque site logo and ads :/

Thanks :)

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685843)

Modded you up because: MY EYES!!!

Re: (2) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686137)

Dan Forden is missing from the corner of that picture shouting "Toasty" or "Crispy"

Re:Simple solution (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 4 months ago | (#45686115)

However, usually the copper thieves are smart and use insulated tools to cut the wires. While embedding power line within fiber cable would cook an unprepared fiber thief (who did not expect the fiber cable to have high voltage), it would not do anything for the copper thief (who already though this was a power cable), actually, it would be worse - now the thief would at least get a consolation prize - the embedded power wire.

Re:Simple solution (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 months ago | (#45686273)

it would not do anything for the copper thief (who already though this was a power cable), actually, it would be worse - now the thief would at least get a consolation prize - the embedded power wire.

Yeah... instead they should use steel-clad or kevlar-clad armored cabling; with cut-resistance: inside pressurized conduit, that will set off alarms, and sound like they hit a gas line, if depressurized.

I need to ship my copper to the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685651)

I sold 30 Kg for $50/US ... this afternoon

Re:I need to ship my copper to the UK (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 4 months ago | (#45686309)

Copper goes for about $NZ7/kg in New Zealand... you yanks are getting shafted.
If I sold 30kg today, it would get me about $NZ210, or around $US170
Slightly less than the 4 pounds per kg in pommy land though.

Copper Fever (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#45685677)

We have had thieves ruin 80 thousand dollars worth of HVAC equipment to steal a few hundred bucks of scrap copper and aluminum coil. In some ways, "cleaning" the material so it can be sold for top tier scrap is more work than a regular job.

Re:Copper Fever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685817)

Criminals operates on a pyramids principle: a few makes insane amount of money, the rest are suckers that don't know better.

Re:Copper Fever (1)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 4 months ago | (#45685909)

Criminals operates on a pyramids principle: a few makes insane amount of money, the rest are suckers that don't know better.

I can hear it now: "Look, copper wire is pretty valuable and I hear that fiber can carry tons more channels, so it must be really valuable!"

london is so god damn ghetto (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685749)

they need a guilliani to come in and drive out the wogs

We're RICH!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685767)

Aw, Goddamn it!

I did exactly the oppposite (5, Funny)

maxrate (886773) | about 4 months ago | (#45685787)

I had a giant spool of fiber cable in my garage (about 1/2" thick cable, 12 strand burial 62.5 multimode) - 62.5 is pretty obsolete. Guys come around garbage night picking up scrap metal from homes on the street.... I tried leaving the giant spool of fiber out before and they knew it was fiber so they didn't take it. I waited a few months, I wrap a little bit of 24 pair cat 3 telephone cable on the very outer layer, BAM! entire 180lbs fiber spool gone by the metal guys! They got a few feet of copper, and a whole bunch of useless fiber, I was so happy! Remember, spool was heavy, took up too much space, I don't feel like having Kijiji/Craigslist people come to my home - I just wanted it gone. Cat 3 24pair?... no tears shed over that either.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 4 months ago | (#45685931)

Problem is... they know where you live. ;)

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686087)

They probably forgave him for being so damn clever.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (2)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 months ago | (#45685975)

Same way you get rid of your old couch pretty much. Put it on the street corner with a sign that says "free couch" and it will sit until it rots. Put a sign that says "Couch, 50$" and it will be gone before you get back to your front door.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 4 months ago | (#45686043)

The frogs and fish who just received a new home would like to thank you for the beautification of the bottom of their pond...

Do you actually believe that they didn't just throw your spool away the second they were told it was worthless? You're littering by proxy.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686367)

Actually, I hadn’t considered that - I'll be mindful of that in the future, thank-you. That being said, there really is no need to be so condescending. Merry Christmas.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686135)

Mean. So mean! I love it!

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 4 months ago | (#45686649)

I left an old console TV out like this. They took it, and then brought it back.
Then I left an old dishwasher out there. It still ran, just had bought a new one. They took the copper parts they wanted out of it rendering it useless for anybody else, and then nobody else would take it.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (1)

maxrate (886773) | about 4 months ago | (#45686875)

I had the same problem. Intentionally left a ShopVac outside, worked perfectly, cosmetic condition was A+ (sign said, 'works').... Just (maybe) needed a filter (Home Depot). They took the copper coils out of the motor, left the unit behind - useless unit now. That is why I did the 24 pair Cat 3 copper on top of the fiber... hopefully they broke their backs loading the spool on to the pick up truck.

Re:I did exactly the oppposite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686747)

If you want stuff like that to disapear put a sign on it that says "for sale." If it's free every one knows its not worth taking, if its for sale it will be gone the first night.

Not a real surprise (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 months ago | (#45685811)

We've had the same problem in Southern Ontario before, where 80k people lost internet access for nearly a day on Rogers, back in the early 2000's. A lot of companies now put "fibre" on their above ground lines to stop them from cutting it, it works, kinda.

Re:Not a real surprise (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#45686451)

I wonder what it would cost to give out free proximity current detectors by the truckload - make it cheap and easy for thieves to quickly skip over the cables not carrying any current (and thus presumably being fiber). Might increase cable theft rates slightly, but the reduction in fiber damage could well be far more dramatic.

Of course if there's significant "dark" cable lying around in Ontario that would be a non-starter, you have to keep the false negatives down if you hope to avoid pointless fiber damage.

Melbourne train network.. (1)

dubist (2893961) | about 4 months ago | (#45685831)

That happens a lot on the Pakenham line in Melbourne Australia.
Idiots take either wire or fiber..

Either way its delayed trains or busses..

the hell?? (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 4 months ago | (#45685881)

According to the Guardian, the hapless criminals were after valuable copper cable, but all they managed to find was fibre, which enables faster broadband speeds but is almost impossible to resell.

How do they know that they were copper thieves? How do they know that the thieves weren't actually trying to steal fiber cables? This is like someone stealing a car, and then everyone laughing at them and calling them failed mobile-home thieves. The whole article is one assumption (at least it appears that way because it never provides reasoning) and keeps pointing to how dumb the thieves were.

Queue the NSA theorists...

Re:the hell?? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 months ago | (#45686041)

Very true. GCHQ was interested in cell networks and voice prints. Good cover for a few regions of interest to get a bulk new telco upgrade distant from any exchange staff or UK court?

Re:the hell?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686063)

According to the article: "Stolen copper wire can be sold to unscrupulous recycling companies, which pay up to £4 for a kilogram, melt it down and sell it on. In contrast, fibre cable is useless to anyone outside of the networking industry."

Theft and reselling of copper cables is pretty common. Your analogy about failed mobile-home thieves is ridiculous.

Re:the hell?? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#45686475)

The question is - what is the black-market price for fiber? Lots of places in the world rolling out infrastructure on a shoestring budget, I'm sure there's a thriving grey market for fiber in good condition, and a black market feeding into it.

Re:the hell?? (1)

vakuona (788200) | about 4 months ago | (#45686529)

Copper is easily melted and you can make new cables of whatever specification you need. Fibre, not so much.

Re:the hell?? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 months ago | (#45686839)

I haven't ever heard of fiber cable thieves, whereas people regularly steal copper out of walls of buildings. If there were a big market for fiber cable, probably assuming they got what they meant to would make sense, but assuming that these people went to all this trouble to steal glass doesn't.

No copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685919)

Doesn't most fiber cables have a bunch of copper surrounding the cable?

Re:No copper (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#45686497)

Why would it?

It doesn't need EM shielding.
Strength/durability would be better and more cheaply added by steel.
Other reasons?

Re:No copper (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#45686593)

Very long distance fiber cable sometimes has a conductive layer in order to power the optical amplifiers needed to handle distances well in excess of what the transmitter alone would be capable of.

On land, I assume that it's much cheaper to run fiber without a conductor and try to place the amps in locations that have power. Undersea cables, though, don't really have much of a choice.

Ridiculous price (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685965)

I work at a cable manufacturing plant. We draw the various needed gauges of copper wires on our own from thick gauge copper spools. We pay about £4 per kg for the raw and refined material, so I find it hard to believe that it sells for the same price on the black market, unrefined and partially isolated.

WOOT (2)

hurfy (735314) | about 4 months ago | (#45685981)

Some of my neighborhood thieves have moved to London.

Sounds like whoever stole the broken 20 year-old cassette deck out of the 40 year-old car sitting open in the driveway on flat tires. Must be a gold mine for sure! They even left all the knobs and bolts in the tray in the console with the wrench. Biggest WTF ever.

Re:WOOT (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | about 4 months ago | (#45686327)

I had a thief break into my car and steal the trashbag. It was a plastic Myers (Department store) bag that I was using as a bin, perhaps they thought it contained expensive clothing.

Re:WOOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686453)

Hey man, not trolling but maybe you should get rid of the eye sore vehicle (unless you're going to restore it or something).

Ridiculous prices on the dark market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45685985)

I work at a cable manufacturing plant and we draw our required gauges of wires from thick gauge copper spools. We pay about 6-7€/kg for the stuff, so I really doubt that stripped wires, which are dirty unrefined copper (residues), go for 5€/kg on the dark market. That's just insane. Our recycler doesn't even pay that for clean copper scrap.

Re:Ridiculous prices on the dark market (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#45686527)

It does sound inflated, but I also imagine a recycler catering to cable thieves is potentially equipped to efficiently scrub the cable clean, which is perhaps cheaper than simply melting it down and re-refining it.

What took so long (1)

nanun (1835) | about 4 months ago | (#45686103)

We had this happen in Hawaii about a year ago. Copper thieves have darkened stretches of roadway and shut down communicatios as a result of their efforts.

On the bright side, we had two cases where copper thieves cut into live wires. Unfortunately both lived to tell about it but you won't want to see what they look like now. One of the incidents occurred near my office. Lights flickered and went out. Later, on the evening news there was an eyewitness telling a reporter about it. He said the thief ran screaming down the street with the flesh on his arms hanging off like rags.

Unfortunately that hasn't deterred copper theft in the least.

You FAI L it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45686221)

bought the farm... Serves to reinforce here, please do [samag.com] in the Software lawyers Who are intersted Myself. This isn't more grandiose in time. For all at least.' Nobody GAY NIIGERS FROM this very moment, and exciting;

Copper theft: the ultimate broken window fallacy (2)

tompaulco (629533) | about 4 months ago | (#45686695)

Copper theft is incredibly destructive for the return. For a couple of dollars worth of copper, they won't think twice about ruining a $10,000 air conditioner. Plus considering the amount of time it takes to steal the copper, they could have gotten a minimum wage job and made more money, and not have to go to jail or die at the end of the day. It just pisses me off how stupid these a-holes are and how much damage they cause to society as a whole.

Who buys recycled copper? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 months ago | (#45686849)

Do "legitimate" businesses like piping companies or wire companies buy copper wholesale from scrapyards which are clearly dealing in stolen copper? I'm just confused as to how there is a market for stolen copper. I understand that it is easier to rip it out of an air conditioning unit than it is to dig it out of the ground, but I'd think it would be easy to reduce demand for stolen copper and kill the market for it by penalizing companies who accept stolen goods, same as any other goods. I'd expect that the companies who are buying copper wouldn't be buying in such small quantities that it would be hard to identify where it was coming from.
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