Report cable theft

Report cable theft

Tackling the criminals that target our network

As global copper prices remain high, so will the threat of cable theft. We've been proactive in tackling this and are investing heavily in a number of coordinated prevention methods outlined on these pages.

We've teamed up with outside agencies such as the charity Crimestoppers and introduced new anti-theft technology to ensure that criminal convictions can be made.

We're also working with other organizations, such as the National Crime Agency, British Transport Police and Network Rail, to try and tackle this problem together.

On behalf of Openreach and all of our crime prevention partners, we'd like to ask you to be vigilant and report anything that looks or seems suspicious to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Cable protection

Cracking metal theft

1. Prevention

We've invested significantly in developing new and innovative ways to make it harder for thieves and vandals to attack our network, reducing the risk to the Telephone, Broadband and TV services we provide to our customers.

Along with securing our cabinets and boxes, the whole of our network is alarmed and monitored 24hrs a day, providing notification to the Police of any unlawful cuts to our cables. Security upgrades of our cable stores have also been completed, including additional CCTV coverage throughout all Openreach and BT buildings.

2. Engagement and intelligence

We've also invested heavily in research to understand exactly what we are up against and how we can combat it most effectively. 

Through working closely with the police, we have developed proactive, intelligence-led operations that mean we are able to crack down on organised gangs and secure the parts of our network most likely to be targeted for attack.

We have an established Metal Theft Task Force, which includes representatives from within Openreach and BT Group Security Investigations. The team has helped secure numerous arrests since its creation.
We've also been raising the profile of this problem in the media to increase awareness among other agencies and the general public. After all, we're not the only industry that finds itself targeted by metal thieves. As a result, we've developed a more collaborative partnership with National Crime Agency, Pol-PRIMETT, which is European police/private collaboration to tackle metal theft, British Transport Police, Network Rail and the energy sectors.

3. Reducing the market for stolen goods

We’ve also run campaigns across the country to let the public know that when our network goes down, it may be as result of criminal activity rather than a fault and worked closely with Government Agencies to change the legislation relating to the Scrap Metal Recyclers Act.

Having teamed up with Crimestoppers in April 2011, we've worked to raise public awareness, increase vigilance and encourage people to provide information to help protect the network, which has helped secure several convictions.


Cutting edge crime-fighting technology

Openreach cable across the UK is now forensically marked with SmartWater, an invisible solution that is virtually impossible to remove and can be traced to the individual street of origin.

The rollout of this cutting-edge technology is part of an ongoing partnership between BT's Metal Theft Taskforce, British Transport Police and SmartWater. It's being used to both deter thieves from targeting the network, and also to capture and convict repeat offenders.

Illegally removing cable marked with SmartWater is likely to result in tools, clothing and vehicles becoming contaminated with the invisible solution. As a result, thieves will inadvertently carry around evidence of their crime wherever they go, risking prosecution long after a crime has been committed.

Regular police checks for SmartWater are being carried out at scrap yards and recycling centres, making it increasingly difficult for thieves to sell stolen metal. A growing number of scrap dealers are equipping themselves with SmartWater detection equipment, and refusing to handle any metal or cable marked with SmartWater.

In areas where theft is re-occurring, SmartWater trap devices will be deployed to capture persistent and prolific cable thieves. Once activated, these non-hazardous devices spray offenders in a chemically coded liquid that covers their skin, clothing and hair. This can then be used by police to link offenders back to a particular crime scene.


Openreach has been working with the charity  Crimestoppers since 2011 as part of our on-going crackdown on metal theft, offering a cash reward of up to £1,000 for any information that leads to a prosecution.

Roger Critchell, Director of Operations at Crimestoppers, said: "Metal theft has far-reaching consequences. Just one cable being stolen could mean an entire community is left for hours without services that we use daily, such as telephones and the internet.”

"We hope that by working with Openreach to raise awareness, it will enable the public to be more conscious about passing on information about those committing these crimes. Thieves themselves should be aware as well - you are endangering your life committing metal theft by risking electrocution."

Crimestoppers is an independent crime-fighting charity that is not part of the police or the Government. It believes that people and their communities have the right to live free from crime and free from the fear of crime.

The charity's mission is to help detect, reduce and prevent crime by securing key information about crimes from anonymous sources. Crimestoppers doesn't take users' names or personal details, and the information it gathers cannot be traced or recorded.

If you think you can help us in the fight against metal theft, then please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Alternatively, visit

Metal theft task force

Doubling arrest rates

The BT Metal Theft Taskforce investigates all incidents involving the theft or damage of cable from within our network, and is taking numerous coordinated steps to combat criminal activity within our operational estate. 

Comprising a dedicated team within Openreach and staff from within BT Group Security, Threat and intelligence, who have helped secure numerous arrests since it was formed.

Recovering our cable 

We work closely with police forces across the UK, The British Metals Recycling Association and Crimestoppers to actively search for stolen cabling and prosecute offenders. 

Openreach strictly controls the recovery and processing of its own waste cable and it is not available on the open market. Disposal of all cable recovered by BT or its contractors is through Openreach’s official channels, and is not offered directly to scrap metal dealers or recyclers. 

Local authorities have legal powers to regulate the scrap metal trade in their area under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 . As such, all scrap metal dealers are obliged by law to keep a written record of all scrap metal received, stored or sold on their premises.


Identifying stolen property

Every single one of our cables is marked with a unique BT item code so it can be easily identified when recovered. To help us to reduce theft – and to ensure you feel safe that the metals and cables you're handling aren't stolen – we've put together this Cable ID Booklet

The guide gives details of some of the many types of cable owned by Openreach, but is by no means exhaustive. If you need help in identifying cables you are handling, please contact our Metal Theft Taskforce via the 24-hour BT Security Helpdesk on 0800 321 999.