back to article Virgin Media downed by thick Leeds 'copper' crooks

Virgin Media customers in Leeds are suffering their second major outage in a few days as a result of witless thieves ripping cables out in the belief they are made of valuable copper. Instead, the raiders have made off with lengths of comparatively worthless glass fibre. Engineers are currently working to repair the damage, …

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Welcome

Copper Thieves - please come to Hackbridge

There's plenty of old copper cable in the Virgin network here. Please come and dig it up, perhaps then Virgin will FINALLY get around to replacing our shite 1990s network with fibre so we can get decent broadband here..

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Silver badge

And BT

Perhaps if they'd take all the old BT cables we'd get fibre to the cabinet/home a lot faster.

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Anonymous Coward

Skit

Copper: "Stop thief!"

Thief: "I ain't nicked nothing, copper!"

Copper: "You're nicked!"

Thief: "Nicked? What for, copper?"

Copper: "Yeah, copper."

Thief: "Huh? Stupid copper, what am I nicked for?"

Copper: "Copper."

Thief: "I'm nicked for nicking a copper?"

Copper: "Not a copper. Copper. You nicked copper."

Thief: "Have you been at the methadrone, guv?"

ad infinitum, fade to music by Ronnie Hazlehurst

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FAIL

Copper price down

Over the last couple of months the scrap value of copper has been falling, partly due the the vast amount of stolen copper on the market...

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FAIL

Same old story

British Rail Telecom

A geat idea. A fantastic route network. Just lay cable beside the track. Cheap, quick (OK, need to have fully trained staff, have to arrange work patterns according to traffic). What could possibly go wrong (aside from some old state ownership mentality).

Except that thieves steal copper as it's easy to get to. And they don't distinguish between cable and fibre.

Energis was a better idea - anyone daft enough can fry. NTL (Virgin Media) have 1000s of KM of fibre on pylons in East Anglia - not sure if anyone is using it - they bought it at a premium (and took on a lot of staff) when Eastern Electricity sold their telecomms department to them.

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Anonymous Coward

Really

So your argument is that it's OK for thieves to take the cable because it's there and Virgin at al should bury it deeper so the scrotes can't get at it?

By the same token if you go round leaving your car on public roads and car parks it's perfectly OK for some low life to come along with a tow truck and take it to the nearest scrappy to weigh it in. So if you'll just post the registration number of your car and the rough area where it's likely to be found I'm sure some amateur scrap dealer will show you how your view of property works in the real world.

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Pint

Misunderstood

I'm just saying the problem is old and won't go away easily - unless there is some deterrent (like the risk of electrocution). Chill - have a beer, it's only Tuesday !

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Frying tonite

Sadly even the risk of being fried doesn't stop these tw@ts. French railways regularly loses overhead catenaries on TGV lines, even though they are live at 25kV.

Bring back hard labour; for every 5km they steal sentence them to dig 5km of new cable trench somewhere. With a teaspoon.

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Don't forget Nigeria!

Where there are regular fires caused by the use of spark-making tools like angle grinders in attempts to nick oil direct from the pipeline...

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Stop

Re: Nigeria

The locals aren't really nicking the oil, seeing as though it's really theirs in the first place. The oil companies paid the crooked government to force the people off their land so they could drill for oil there. They got no compensation, and hence are desperate enough to take extreme risks to make money, such as cutting open oil pipelines!

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Anonymous Coward

Why has the price of copper risen?

This hasn't been explained in any article about copper cable theft I've read in recent weeks, online or in newspapers.

It's not a rare metal and I don't think that most of it comes from 'sensitive' areas, in the same way that oil largely comes from the middle east, affecting production there and providing other countries like Russia, Norway and Venezuela an excuse to bump up their prices.

I bought cheap and nasty wire yesterday for a replacement headphones lead and it was 89p per metre! Basic non-OFC cable with hard PVC insulation and about 6 thin strands per channel.

The last time I bought cable, it was a full reel of high quality shielded OFC with foamed sleeving to make audio cables, and it cost me £25 This cheap and nasty stuff yesterday was the equivalent of £89!

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At a very simplistic level..

It's China's fault. They're stockpiling as much of the stuff as they can (or at least were until very recently) and pushing the prices up.

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Grenade

Markets

Don't forget the effects of the futures market itself. Those lovely traders and investment banks have been busy gaming the commodities markets for years.

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Flame

This has been going for ages prior to that

As an example - Sofia airport in Bulgaria has been trying to put guidance and sensors kit on its west side since the mid-70es. The problem however was that the optimum spot the kit was bang in the middle of the local "travellers" community.

So the kit was put in, connected via copper to the airport dispatcher tower, worked for a couple of days and then stopped. Every time a large chunk of the copper went missing. A few times a year for 20 years - put kit, connect, lose connectivity at most a few weeks later. Rinse repeat.

So here come the glorious 90-es and what was probably one of the first fiber runs in the country. One week later - fiber dug up. So new fiber is put in and signage is placed along the route saying "It is not copper, it is fiber, do not steal it is worthless". One week later - the fiber goest missing and a note is nailed to one of the signs "Yeah, but, we have to check".

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

The price has risen because of demand. Simple really, what do you find hard to understand about that? Like many metals these days much of the copper produced comes from scrap, mostly because it's easier to process scrap copper into "new" copper than it is to dig up ore, transport it to the smelting plant and smelt it.

The issue with copper theft is that little has been done to control the market in scrap metal. Were it a requirement that all dealers in scrap metal needed documentary proof of where all their stock came from then they'd be less likely to buy a van load of cable from a dodgy geezer with no ID. Many dealers will buy tons of cable stripped of it's insulation because it's untraceable, but if they were legally required to keep a paper trail they wouldn't be so keen. "Well some bloke came round with a lorry load of stripped heavy gauge cable and I didn't ask any questions because he was selling at a knock down price." It hardly presents the dealer as a scrupulously honest man does it?

One of my favourite stories of idiot copper thieves was the one about the guys in a scabby old van taking unused rolls of cabling away from a power station construction site in Ireland. Naturally the Garda were interested in why the perps were removing unused copper cable from somewhere that was getting miles of the stuff delivered daily. It would be like driving away from Drax with a train load of coal.

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Pint

We Had SimilarCopper...

...thefts here in Las Vegas. Thieves would create $10,000 worth of labor for telco workers in order to get $500 worth of copper. The other value reducer was chopping the copper coils from air conditioner units.

The problem was brought under control by requiring ID at recycling centers. At first this was not extremely successful, but a few sting operations weeded out the dishonest scrappers.

ISTR in Texas a hundred year old state law makes POSESSION of over 1500 feet of copper wire prima facie evidence of theft.

A few minutes ago the price of copper was $3.75. Up to the minute prices are here:

http://www.kitcometals.com/charts/copper_historical_large.html

So i have a choice, 12 ounces of copper, or 12 ounces of 211.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

"The price has risen because of demand. Simple really, what do you find hard to understand about that?"

How would I understand something that hasn't been said? You do understand that your reply to my post comes *after* I make my post, don't you?

I know about IT, not stock markets or scrap metal merchants.

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Alert

mark it

It is about time someone figured how to watermark copper and other nicked metals to allow the identification of the owner to be assesed. Then the person hold ing the material can bl**dy well explain how it came to be in their hands - you have proof of theft and a much easier case to prove in court.

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Silver badge

Failed your basic econ classes eh?

Price is determined by the intersection of the demand and supply curves. Copper many be plentiful in comparison to gold, but it's physical properties for manufacturing purposes are comparable. So the demand for copper has risen considerably in the modern age. From printed circuits to the billions of miles of electrical cables we use a lot of it and like other precious and semi-precious materials, we've already pulled out the stuff that is easy to get at, or at least located in places where the green weenies will allow us to recover it.

Yeah, China plays a big part in that too, but it's not the only part.

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All metal prices are increasing

Because of the inflationary shenanigans of the governments and banks.

Hope my internet connection is working when I get home tonight, it was down this morning...

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Leeds 11 ...

'Nuff said.

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Linux

Use bigger lasers!

Some of the ULH optics are already reasonably meaty, but need more power. Would aid detection, just look for the exposed cable and reassamble parts to assist ID.

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Rumor

I heard that last year scrap prices were so high, and high st prices so static (due to stock turnover issues), that you could buy copper pipe form B&Q and sell it as scrap for more than you paid for it!

Sounds daft, but then again.......

(as in when oil prices were high, oil sellers (e.g car engine oil) ( had stock that cost a fortune, when the prices dropped they sold off the old cans at high price before selling the ones (form the back of the shelf) at the low price. This can work the other way as well

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Grenade

So...

... full on investigation for 40 minutes, then break for tea for 5 hours?

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Silver badge
Happy

TV - PLEASE :)

That's got to be something worth watching

Break into cable

Attach to truck

Drive off to rip out of shallow trench

I can just see them trying to get away from the Polis with 1/2KM of cable dragging behind them. Sitting in a warehouse, wondering how the Panda car followed them

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Silver badge

Simple answer?

Start making the outer casing of fibre cables with a "No copper" symbol.

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Happy

a better way

I am afraid that you sir are assuming these 'lads' can read

at Le Mans 24 Hour race we hand these types over to the CRS,

now they DO know how to deal with them

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Flame

re: Simple answer?...

...or perhaps, colour the insulation yellow, thicken it up a bit and mark it "GAS". Put dummy taps on all the junction boxes to add some further authenticity.

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Only twice?

First it was off from 6am until 6pm on Friday 12/03/2010. Then, 8 days later, it was off ALL DAY on Saturday 20/03/2010. 6am this morning we found it was off again...

At least it's not Virgin just being rubbish, as I had suspected! Thanks for the info TheReg, Virgin have told us nothing!

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Anonymous Coward

Follow Twitter...

... and you'll be told everything. I was furious at the outages and the fact that I wasn't contacted. You will likely receive an apology soon!

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WTF?

Get yourself earthed

A few decades ago, I came into work at a large factory to find the electricity turned off.

Seemingly during the night at the back of the car park thieves had broken into a small isolated hut where the factory's Earthing rod was inserted into the earth.

This large 6 foot pole about 9" thick had been sawed off where it left the ground therefore giving the thieves quite a bit of pure copper to sell to someone.

Oddly the security system didn't cover this area considering how vitally important this piece of electrical safety was for over 4000 people...

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Anonymous Coward

That's nothing...

A factory down the road from my Uni had a major explosion a few years ago -- apparently it turned out that a maintenance employee was trying to steal oxygen and acetylene that he was mean to be welding with -- got a couple of pub CO2 bottles to put it in and some long pipes to take it out the emergency door (habitually propped open probably for people smoking), I heard he got the oxygen OK but blew himself up (along with 50ft of factory wall) when he opened the taps to transfer some acetylene.

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Silver badge

Perhaps

A nice sign or 2 on the local electricty sub stations saying

"This is full of copper cable, feel free to take it" would solve the problem of copper theives suitably quickly

And maybe a low quality video camera will take some amusing footage for the latest crap cops reality show on virgin media too.

As for the scrap yard folks.... our ones pay by cheque now but only when presented with photo ID.

And tend to make calls to where you are alledgedly working to check you work there.

Well what do expect when you turn up with 250 Kg of brass or aluminium scrap

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Bronze badge

Scam

Isn't this like the bus shelter scam? You know, win the contract (nudge, nudge) to once again fit bus shelters with glass panes so there is a huge aftermarket revenue driving around replacing them all the time. Then all you need is the contractors who replace the glass to go on a pub crawl breaking some as they go.

This works for car windscreen/shop window replacement contractors too. Take a few car windscreens out of an evening, chances are you might get some work tomorrow!

So with this story, cable installers go around nicking copper (or glass under the guise of copper) so they get scrap money for the cable and the contract to replace it. At a couple of quid per splice, it's good money. Potentially double if VM are telling you to get it done in a hurry because it was an 'unplanned' outage.

Cynical, moi?

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FAIL

The words fail me...

You would never stop taking the bus just because an idiot smashes the bus shelter. You HAVE to get your windscreen replaced.

Telco, Broadband, TV et al are items that DO give you choice. If it doesn't work, you can move on.

If this was a scam then I would guess that you would be the only one senseless enough to undertake it.

I hope you run your own business and use your own tactics because your cynical assumptions would run it into the ground pretty darn quickly.

Try and use some logic before spouting this garbage.

/rant

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Silver badge
Coat

More to this than meets the eye

I reckon they're hoping to steal more than just the naked cable be it copper or whatever - they're hoping to steal whatever part of the internet is on it. You can get a lot of internet on a couple of hundred metres of cable.

Mine's the one with the copy of "The Beginner's Guide To Cynicism Vol 1 Issue 1" in the pocket.

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Thumb Down

Cretins.

Some low life in Toronto took the copper grounding wire from almost every single pole in the west end. they are sheathed in plastic and he did it in such a way that it looked undisturbed. thats a lot of crack!

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FAIL

An outage?

That would be rather contrary to their claim in a recent newspaper advertisement - "infinitely reliable".

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Stop

Punishment?

Tie their hands to the back of a truck and.....

Amputation?

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Grenade

I admit it

I am confused , there as so many different opinions , so many countries to blame , so many greedy cunning thieves .

The truth is out there but like the X Files , everything is dark and foggy.

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Gold badge
Go

Will Virgin replace copper with Fibre

Well that would be good of them if I trusted them.

1 word.

Phorm.

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Paris Hilton

Leeds leads?

Leeds leads as crime capital of UK?

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Pirate

Treason Felony Act

hmm.. isn't "damaging a public utility" classed as treason in the UK?

Execute a few crooks as a "deterrent" and televise the event. Bonus if the method of execution is by electric chair, yay for poetic justice.

Last but not least, stealing copper could be classed as looting, allowing summary justice.

AC for obvious reasons.

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BT - commodities trader

Professor Peter Cochrane many years ago made the point that BT could fibre up the country by mining the copper it would replace, and then selling it. This was before copper reached its current high prices.

It would be interesting if someone like Rio Tinto bought BT to gain access to all the copper asset that BT has been burying away for over a century.... Replace the copper with sand (which is what optical fibre basically is) and bank the difference....

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