26/03/2012 07:00 BST | Updated 26/05/2012 06:12 BST

BT Releases RABIT To Catch Cable Thieves

BT let the RABIT out of the bag on Monday when it announced a new burglar alarm technology designed to catch cable thieves.

Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker (RABIT) will detect cuts or damage to cables and notify BT within minutes with street-level detail of where the attack has occurred.

Luke Beeson, general manager, BT security, said in a statement: “BT’s new burglar alarm on the network will make thieves think again. We are now able to inform the police of the exact location of malicious network attacks and, if trials are anything to go by, it won’t be long before they start catching the thieves in the act.”

The RABIT alert will first go through BT’s security control centre, then to police response teams if the phone or broadband system is attacked.

Already tested in Essex, the technology has forced cable thieves to flee the scene of a cable theft empty-handed there.

Paul Crowther, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police, and metal theft lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "In my view this technology will significantly improve police response times to cable theft incidents and will act as a major deterrent to criminals engaged in this activity.

"More importantly, communities and businesses should see a sharp reduction in the disruption caused by this type of theft. This is an early example of how government funding has helped the National Police Metal Theft task Force, assist BT in the battle against cable theft."

BT claims cable theft costs the UK economy £770 million a year, and says that rising copper prices will see a continued increase in theft.

Cable theft from a Swansea hospital this year forced 80 operations to be postponed.

In 2011, 100 trains were affected as the London to Edinburgh East Coast Main Line was delayed when thieves stole cabling worth just £44./a>.

Swansea East MP Sian James, whose own office suffered from cable theft attacks, told the BBC: "It is clear to me and others that we need a much tougher licensing regime for dealers.

"We have to end this buying at the back door mentality and require that anyone selling materials to scrap metal dealers prove their identities and provide documentation on where and when the metal was sourced," she said.