Cables are frequently the target of theft, owing to the inclusion of valuable copper in their construction.
At one point it was estimated that cable theft cost the UK £1bn a year, with Network Rail reporting that copper theft cost them over £19m a year. Just this week, two high profile cases of cable theft have been reported in the news, despite the actual level of cable theft dropping by 67% from last year according to government statistics.
The theft of cables, especially custom cables, can be particularly damaging. For one, replacing a cable can be expensive, especially if you had the cable custom built.
The time it takes to construct, ship and install a replacement for a cable that has been stolen could also lead to costly downtime for a business, as evidenced by the hold-up of a bridge being constructed in Rhyl from which cables were stolen.
Protecting cables from theft is, on the face of it, difficult. Many cables, such as those installed on bridges or CCTV cameras are often left exposed. This means that a thief can quite simply come along and cut the cable before taking it to a scrap metal dealer for cash. While cables installed in a shopping centre or a public place might benefit from having round-the-clock guards patrolling a site, cables installed on railways and in exchanges are also vulnerable to theft.
Thankfully, the Government and cable manufacturers are taking action against cable thieves, such as establishing new regulations for scrap metal dealers and increasing the penalties for cable theft.
Here is a guide to some of your cable protection options, whether you’re planning on installing a single multicore cable or an entire network of fibre optics.
One of the most technically impressive ways to protect your cables is DNA tracking, which involves establishing a link between you and your cable.
This can be done via imprinting a unique series of microdots onto a cable, which can then be traced back to your company in the event of a theft. The forensic evidence can also be used in court to increase the likelihood of a conviction.
The inclusion of DNA tracking can also deter a thief from attempting to steal your cable in the first place. Remote Monitoring Hiring someone to stand and look at your cables all day to make sure they won’t be stolen would be useful but cost-ineffective. Remote monitoring, however, does much the same job without the need for someone to be near the cables.
There are various different kinds of remote cable monitoring systems on the market, and most do involve quite a lot of financial outlay. If you’re willing to meet the costs, though, this is a good security option; one of the best we’ve seen actually transmits a signal to the cable owner at the slightest hint of unusual activity, such as disconnection or attempts to break the cable.
BT, who own one of the largest cable networks in the world, have recently invested in SmartWater, a technology that sprays a thief with a solution should they try to tamper with equipment.
Physical deterrents can be extremely effective at deterring criminals, although there is a line at which a deterrent can be deemed too ‘physical’. In general, investing in a technology that marks a thief and helps the police to identify them rather than actually hurting them is the best option.
Housing your cables in a metal guard box can make life difficult for a thief, especially as time is usually of the essence to a cable thief. Guard boxes are relatively inexpensive, but it’s worth investing in a highly durable and tough metal to ensure your cables are completely secure.
Cable marking is probably the least technical security measure in this post, but one of the most effective. Quite simply, this involves printing your company name on the cable so that any potential thieves can’t scrap the cable at a legitimate scrap dealer. Another method that also works is printing words to the effect of ‘stolen, do not scrap’ on your cables. For more information on cable security, get in touch with Custom Designed Cables.