Saturday, May 25, 2024

Rising trend in copper cable thefts poses risks to UK infrastructure

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Organised criminals in the south are targeting industrial sites to steal copper cable, and we’re urging people to report crimes and any suspicious activity around industrial sites to police as soon as possible.

Thieves may target locations such as railway lines, electricity sub-stations, water/sewage works, hospitals, schools, building sites, scrap yards, storage yards, historical sites, cemeteries and war memorials, farms, solar farms, churches and battery storage.

Heat map of thefts
The heat map below demonstrates the areas in the south, including Hampshire, that have been most affected by cable theft in particular between 1st March and 26th April 2024.

Cable dragged a number of miles
Copper cable theft sees offenders use a vehicle to drag cable a number of miles before it is cut down and prepared for onward sale.

This activity is highly dangerous and poses a serious risk to life, in addition to damage that is caused to street furniture during the process.

Crippling financial impact
The financial impact is crippling, and it can also cause serious disruption to the country’s infrastructure, including transport delays, power cuts and loss of connectivity.

This type of crime has seen a 20 per cent increase compared to last year, and is prevalent across a number of areas in the UK. There have been reports of offenders stealing cable, before returning to the offence location at a later date to carry out a further theft of the repaired cable.

Large volumes of cable have been reported stolen in the south from solar farms, and in April we received two reports of suspicious individuals intruding on solar farms in the north of Hampshire after dark.

Signs to look out for

  • Unmarked vehicles at or near access points, construction or building sites. Most organisations have marked vehicles with visible company details, although some smaller companies or individual workers may not.
  • Unfamiliar individuals loitering around access points, depot entrances or locations where at-risk items are located.
  • Consider threat of internal crime – suspicious behaviour by employees/contractors.
  • Check perimeter fencing for indicators of criminal reconnaissance such as markers tied to fencing. Check boundaries to look for gaps or damage which may be a sign of illegal access.
  • Work taking place on construction or building sites outside of normal working hours. The local planning authority will know the hours attached to any planning consent within their area, so make an enquiry.
  • Unlocked access gates into a building, construction or storage facility without any clear work taking place should always be investigated.
  • Some criminals may use graffiti-style symbols to mark areas where there is cable, metal or other at-risk items suitable for stealing.


  • Ensure CCTV systems are working and that images obtained are of good quality.
  • Check perimeter CCTV to make sure individual cameras are not obscured by trees or have been damaged and are still providing coverage of the appropriate perimeter points.
  • Ensure any alarm monitoring company has up to date contact details and has an effective escalation process should suspicious activity be seen at a site.
  • Check site access points to ensure they are secure. Report any insecurities or concerns you may have to the police.
  • Report any suspicious activity, or activity which is outside what you would normally expect to see, however insignificant it may seem.
  • Engage with the local community around your site and encourage them to report suspicious activity to.
  • Suspicious incidents can be reported to police, or by calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

What to do if your site is targeted

  • It is crucial that you report this to police
  • In the event of an emergency or a crime in progress, dial 999
  • In a non-emergency situation, you can call police on 101, or use the reporting tool
  • Avoid touching or disturbing a crime scene
  • If you spot any unfamiliar items that have been left at the scene such as tools, drink containers or cigarette butts, tell the police
  • Take photographs of any footprints or vehicle tracks which do not belong to you or your teams

News shared by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, in their own words. Ed

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