Police in the Midlands have foiled an extensive scrap metal operation, recovering thousands of pounds’ of BT equipment in the process.
The gang of four men ran an operation described as ‘industrial’ in scale and reaped up to £100,000 in cash payments from a Gloucestershire dealer.
West Mercia Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit working closely with BT were able to track down and arrest the men.
Gary Kitchin, 48 pleaded guilty to offences last December and was sentenced to 38 months imprisonment for conspiracy to steal and 12 months to be served simultaneously for money laundering.
Simon Beardsley, 49, was imprisoned for 28 months while Gareth Spooner, aged 30, and Alex Carr, 29 were served sentences for 27 months and 18 months respectively.
Detective Constable Max Voyce, from the unit, told the Ledbury Reporter: “Their activities were on an industrial scale and inquiries have been conducted with every utility company and national rail service in the country to ascertain how much of the cable that forms part of the national infrastructure has gone missing in recent years and whether we could link them to Kitchin and his associates.
“We have worked closely with these bodies, especially BT, to gather evidence and intelligence that has led these jail sentences. The work we have done to together has set a benchmark for the efforts made to protect national infrastructure assets.”
BT’s network arm Openreach is routinely plagued by scrap metal thieves, to the extent that BT has been compelled to develop RABIT (Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker) a system which makes it easier for BT and police to track down cable thieves.
RABIT was introduced in 2012 and allows BT to give police the exact location of malicious attacks and thefts.
The Scrap Metal Act, making it illegal to pay for scrap metal in cash, was introduced in October 2013, in a bid to cut down on theft of copper.
Theft of BT copper can leave customers stranded offline for weeks and in some cases the damage can have knock on effects further afield. An incident in Oldham’s Manchester Road in 2013 saw over 2 million homes across Manchester temporarily losing phone, TV and broadband services.