Crooked Cretins cut off Cumbrians

Thousands of West Cumbrian families, and other people as far away as Lancashire, lost phone services, including the ability to make emergency 999 calls, for part of the weekend after a bunch of idiotic criminals attacked a section of telephone cable near Workington.

The motive appears to have been a futile attempt to steal copper wire - in which they were unsuccessful because copper was replaced by optical fibres in BT's trunk network years ago.

About 13,000 homes and businesses lost all telephone service for a time, the main areas being hit in West Cumbria being Harrington, Cleator Moor, and parts of Whitehaven, though some customers in Lancaster were also affected. BT engineers working round the clock over the weekend made temporary repairs which restored service to all customers by Saturday afternoon, though it took until 2am on Sunday to complete permanent repairs. The damage also caused a reduction in network capacity that caused congestion for customers across a much wider area.

During the period services were affected, Cumbria police advised people to use mobile phones to make 999 calls and stationed an officer at a local pub in Cleator Moor as a point of contact.

Luke Beeson, BT Security general manager for metal theft, said:

“Cumbria has suffered very few cable thefts but this single incident illustrates that when would-be thieves mistakenly target fibre cables in their search for copper, the impact can be felt over a very wide area.

“Thanks to our engineers who worked through the night, the damage has been repaired and we’ll now be doing all we can to help the police in their search for the perpetrators.”

As I have mentioned in a number of recent blog posts, metal thieves - or, as in this case, exceptionally stupid would-be metal thieves - are not just doing a great deal of damage to the British economy. They are also putting lives at risk.

Not everyone has a mobile phone, and some of the exchange areas affected by this week's attack include black spots of very poor mobile coverage. This attack could have delayed calls for help in an emergency.

Unless action is taken to crack down on metal theft and put the people who are guilty of this activity behind bars, sooner or later they will be cause deaths.

MPs on both sides of the House of Commons have recently raised the problems of metal thefts, including David Morris, Conservative MP for Morecambe & Lunesdale, and Graham Jones MP (Labour). In response, Home office minister James Brokenshire said recently that

“The Home Office supports the wide-ranging plan being delivered by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Metal Theft working group to tackle metal theft, including the theft from public buildings and memorials. In addition, discussions are under way across Government on whether legislative changes are needed to tackle metal theft."

I think that legislation is necessary, and I hope that the government can find time for it soon.


jim said…
One way to do this would be to work with the metal dealers. Ensuring they keep records of who sold what and when. They could inform the authorities if someone brings in a suspect batch of metal, like 30 feet of HT electric cable etc.
Perhaps they could insist on showing ID with photo, name and address to prevent people giving false info. A little bit like an electronics store have to provide your details to the TV licence people when you buy certain things.
Also the scrap dealers could perhaps identify anything marked with "smart water" at the first sign.

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