Openreach are offering a reward of up to £20,000, via Crimestoppers, for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for a string thefts of copper telecommunications cables in Essex, England.

The events transpiring in Essex are due to the price of copper holding a very high value currently, which leads to the increase in metal theft and very often telecommunications cables are the target of the thefts.

The thieves drag the copper cable out of the ground with force to remove the cable completely. This leads to the thieves ripping out the networks connections and the devices placed in the network to bring broadband to businesses and residents. This can have a massive impact on those who rely on these cables, leading to broadband blackouts and the damage can take weeks to repair.

Most cases of metal theft are sporadic and so may only attract smaller rewards. But occasionally, when you get organised gangs of metal thieves, they often target essential and critical infrastructure to rural areas, where they know that the police response is likely to be slower. Although some of these thefts can be more brazen, occurring in broad daylight and masking their illicit activity with fake uniforms in populated urban areas.

In the Essex case, large sections of live cable were pulled from an underground communications network in Roothing on the 21st July 2021, which was also targeted three weeks earlier on the 2nd July. On the 15th July, a cable was also cut on the Epping Upland and again, a cable was cut on the 16th July in Harlow. All of the thefts occurred between the hours of 11pm and 2am.

The damage caused by these attacks/thefts, has been said to have affected hundreds of Openreach’s broadband and telephone customers across the Essex area. This unfortunately includes essential emergency services at each location. There was also a significant amount of damage was suffered to street furniture and farmland, where cables were dragged through fields.

Richard Ginnaw, Head of Security Services for Openreach, made the following statement:

“These incidents have severely impacted the day-to-day lives of people across these areas of Essex and this is why we have increased the reward on offer.

We are working closely with the police to catch those who are responsible and have deployed additional security enhancements across the area, but we also need your help. Please be vigilant, and if you saw anything suspicious on or around the time of the incidents, please report it. If you prefer not to speak directly to police, contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously.”

The newer fibre optic cables in the gigabit-capable Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) broadband networks, such as Virgin, aren’t worth as much to the thieves, but this does not stop the illicit activity because some thieves still rip out the fibre optic cables thinking that one of the cables may be copper.  

If anyone has any information on these metal thefts, then you should please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or use the online form. All of the information that they gather is 100% anonymous and as previously stated any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the thieves responsible will receive the reward.