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Putting the Squeeze On Broadband Copper Robbers

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the bubbs-is-at-it-again dept.

Crime 282

nk497 writes "As the price of copper rises, thieves have taken to stealing broadband cables, taking out internet connections and slowing down the rollout of super-fast broadband by giving engineers more work to do. To battle the criminals, UK provider BT has 21 investigators on staff to track down thieves and has started using SmartWater bombs that spray stolen property and the criminals. The SmartWater liquid carries a DNA fingerprint that links a criminal to the scene of the crime and police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains to make an arrest after the trap has been sprung. 'We had one case recently where someone in Dagenham was stopped and searched after acting suspiciously and the police used a UV light on them and could show that they had been tampering with the equipment,' said Auguste. The SmartWater liquid can also be pasted inside cables, making them easier to trace — and less appealing to scrap metal buyers, helping to cut demand for stolen copper."

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fpfppfpfpfpfpfpf (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33906822)

f[fpwepofapo[asop[fawp[fp[asf

Perhaps (4, Insightful)

shitzu (931108) | about 4 years ago | (#33906838)

Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

Re:Perhaps (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33906846)

We had one case recently where someone in Dagenham was stopped and searched after acting suspiciously.

When will people learn to stop acting suspiciously after they do something they aren't supposed to do?

If someone were to try to rip out newly-installed fiber, would they walk around pointing to their glasses?

Mod Parent Up (4, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33907060)

If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. One of the things I've noticed is that you can often walk out of a store through a beeping loss control device, by behaving as if it isn't going off. Also certain shops with those detectors have ones that malfunction and the staff tends to ignore it. It's probably because store staff don't have arresting power in misdemeanor theft around here.

It applies to most things, if you don't want somebody executing a felony arrest warrant on you, the easiest way to avoid that is by not driving like an idiot. It's not fool proof, but it's the most common way for those arrest warrants to lead to an arrest.

Re:Mod Parent Up (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907580)

I walked out of Sainsbury's with a bottle of whisky that the cashier hadn't taken the tag off of. I just pretended that nothing had happened and continued on my merry way without being challenged. It probably helped that I was drunk at the time.

Re:Perhaps (4, Insightful)

AaxelB (1034884) | about 4 years ago | (#33907116)

When will people learn to stop acting suspiciously after they do something they aren't supposed to do?

A large subset of thieves (and many other types of criminals) are also stupid, or have low self-control. If you can control yourself and are reasonably smart, you can probably profit more through various less risky legal means.

Re:Perhaps (5, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | about 4 years ago | (#33907286)

Very relevant point indeed. An argument I often have with the hard-on-crime lot. They propose punishments would deter them - but they are not criminals in the first place. The real criminals are, all too often, stupid and/or ill educated and/or have mental health problems and/or addiction problems. A system tuned to deterring comfortable middle glass good (in law at least) citizens simply doesn't work against the kind of people who commit 95% of crime. But it is those middle-class voters who set the legal agenda.

Re:Perhaps (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33906912)

fibers are stolen too, on the chance they contain copper after all.

A dumped stretch of fiber in a ditch after a pointless theft no longer carries any bits of light.

Big problem in Africa (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907166)

This was a big problem in East Africa when I lived in the region. This is also the reason why wireless really took off, with things like WiMax and 3G becoming ubiquitous in all the major cities. The advent of the fiber optic cables connecting to the rest of the world further supported the existing wireless network. It's a perfect example of leapfrogging technologies. Besides, only about 15% of people ever had access to old copper phone lines anyway. ;)

Re:Perhaps (2, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | about 4 years ago | (#33907206)

People have pulled fiber thinking it's copper...

Re:Perhaps (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907460)

Perhaps move to fiber should be considered

Perhaps people shouldn't be stealing what they don't own...

Re:Perhaps (2, Informative)

myov (177946) | about 4 years ago | (#33907622)

Won't stop them from trying.

About 10 years ago,cable modems across Ontario (Canada) were knocked off the AtHome network. Thieves dug up and cut the fibre thinking it was copper, then tried again with the backup.

Enhance! (2, Funny)

Stratoukos (1446161) | about 4 years ago | (#33906844)

Why get in so much trouble?

Can't they just enhance a Google Maps photo?

Copper broadband? (5, Insightful)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 4 years ago | (#33906854)

Scrap metal recyclers don't pay much for fiber optics, just saying.

Re:Copper broadband? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907078)

i wonder, which is easier for trigger-happy hunters to shoot down, fiber or copper?
Maybe BT should go Google on their copper and burry it?

Re:Copper broadband? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907246)

Yeah. Cutting fibber to just find out it's not worth stealing would really help. Broken fiber sill works, right?

Oh how I miss good ol' times after collapse of USSR when electric trains where not running due to stolen wires...

Smart water? (3, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 4 years ago | (#33906860)

The SmartWater liquid carries DNA

So now we're calling it smart water?

Also, eeeeew! eeew! God why! eeeew!

And also, the marketing concept of "smart drink" has just gone to hell.

And finally. "Smart water? Who came with that idea?"

Re:Smart water? (1, Flamebait)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33906902)

And finally. "Smart water? Who came with that idea?"quote>

Ever heard of Masaru Emoto? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Smart water? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 years ago | (#33906928)

no, had never heard of him. So basically Emoto has wasted his life on stupidity, and convinced others to do the same. sad.

Re:Smart water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33906914)

Brand name, it is.

Re:Smart water? (-1, Offtopic)

Spazmania (174582) | about 4 years ago | (#33906924)

If it's yellow, let it mellow
If it's brown, flush it down

Re:Smart water? (-1, Offtopic)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33907018)

If it's red, it's probably dead.
If it's green, flee the scene.
If it's purple, call the doctor.

Re:Smart water? (-1, Offtopic)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33907066)

I'd recommend seeing a doctor, as I don't think that brown urine is normal.

Re:Smart water? (0, Offtopic)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 4 years ago | (#33907360)

I'd recommend seeing a doctor, as I don't think that brown urine is normal.

It comes from drinking the Zune kool-aid.

It's a rare disorder.

Re:Smart water? (0, Offtopic)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 4 years ago | (#33907048)

Off course. And like any "smart" option in MS-Office, you don't want to be use it.

Re:Smart water? (3, Funny)

ginbot462 (626023) | about 4 years ago | (#33907090)

On the plus side, Smart Water bottles themselves are a great size/form factor with heavier plastic than most brands - I bought a case for that reason. Sort of like "disposable" Tupperware.

Scum Bags (1)

symes (835608) | about 4 years ago | (#33906882)

These crooks are just the lowest of the low - there've been churches round my way that have had lead taken from the roof, schools dismantled and road signs removed. So I would like to see this fingerprinting rolled out and used more generally. In fact - can you get it in permanent ink?

Re:Scum Bags (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907006)

Stories like this warm my heart and give me confidence that there is still justice in the universe:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/state/Man_electrocuted_in_copper_wire_theft.html [mysanantonio.com]

http://www.kens5.com/news/Man-loses-arms-and-legs-in-copper-theft-83398667.html [kens5.com]

Even if a copper wire thief isn't killed, if they are caught this should be their punishment anyway. Strip the insulation off of a 100ft extension cord, wrap them in it from head to toe, remove the magnetic breaker and shove some bus wire in its place, plug the cord in, and watch that fucker light up like some Christmas lights from hell.

Re:Scum Bags (4, Funny)

dintech (998802) | about 4 years ago | (#33907056)

I'll be sure never to take YOUR sandwich from the office refrigerator...

Re:Scum Bags (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907120)

That would be wise, since at random intervals I place a decoy sandwich in that fridge, with a few fish hooks hidden between the lettuce and the cheese.

Oh good God... (1)

RulerOf (975607) | about 4 years ago | (#33907488)

a few fish hooks hidden between the lettuce and the cheese.

There's no "+1 Twisted and sick, don't fuck with this guy" mod, so I figured I'd reply instead.

Well done sir.

Re:Scum Bags (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33907370)

In Saudi Arabia a man would have his right hand amputated if caught stealing.

Do you think having both arms and legs amputated is a more just punishment?

Re:Scum Bags (-1, Troll)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33907124)

These crooks are just the lowest of the low - there've been churches round my way

At least the copper crooks aren't threatening your grandma with eternal damnation if she doesn't pay up. Shit, I don't believe that all of these metal thieves put together do the damage that one wall-street banker or corporate lobbyist does.

SmartWater? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33906888)

Isn't it simply BabyBatter?

Does this crime really pay? (1)

ommerson (1485487) | about 4 years ago | (#33906906)

Steeling copper telephone cables for their copper content is a pretty desperate crime - even at the spot price of copper quoted (the thief will be offered far less by the scrap-merchant) - they'd need to pinch an awful lot of it. There are surely much more lucrative metals to steel than this?

Re:Does this crime really pay? (1)

mikael_j (106439) | about 4 years ago | (#33906934)

Around here they've actually stolen trailers just to haul copper away, so it's not like they're just stealing a hundred meters or so, they're stealing a lot of it (although those stealing trailers have apparently stolen entire rolls of copper wire rather than copper wire already in the ground).

Yes, but most crime does not pay well (3, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 4 years ago | (#33907000)

Crime does NOT pay all that well. Your car is NOT worth the money you paid for it. The moment you drive it out of the shop, it looses a lot of its value. Same with that gold ring. To a thief, it is even worth less because these things can only be sold to fences.

2nd hand copper is a legit trade. Tons of the stuff gets processed all the time, so if I show up with a ton claiming I was demoloshing a factory and dug it up, who is going to ask questions.

It may not be worth all that much, but I get market price for it, not what some fence is willing to pay.

And most criminals never become rich anyway. Yes, stealing a ton of copper is hard work, but so is regular work for that level of education/skill. These aren't smart criminals. Just greedy. That is why so many of them end up paying the ultimate price. Death as they cut a life wire.

What other metals you can easily sell large quantities of do you know are lying around unguarded? People might notice if you start dismanting power pylons and ripping out railroad tracks takes far more effort then the overhead power cables.

Re:Yes, but most crime does not pay well (1)

ommerson (1485487) | about 4 years ago | (#33907096)

Here in the UK, lead is commonly used as a roofing material on historic buildings - particularly churches. Predictably enough, it's also frequently stolen. Zinc is also used this purpose. Copper theft is also common from the railways. On 3rd-rail electrified lines the power cables are rates at a couple of kA, so quite substantial, yet only 700V DC when live.

Re:Yes, but most crime does not pay well (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33907100)

That's because successful psychopaths go into business and become CEOs, whereas unsuccessful psychopaths end up being busted for things like this.

But in general, crime really doesn't pay as well as people think. Some crimes do, but most crimes aren't particularly lucrative. Bank robbery for instance would require a heist every month just to make ends meet. And that's assuming that things went successfully. The average bank robber makes very little money on each robbery. Banks got wise to it a long time ago and rarely if ever is there enough money available to the tellers to even consider it worthwhile.

Re:Yes, but most crime does not pay well (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33907670)

our car is NOT worth the money you paid for it. The moment you drive it out of the shop, it looses a lot of its value.

Actually, my car IS worth the money I paid for it, and the moment I drive it off the lot, it depreciates along a nice slow curve.

With respect to how I veiw the worth of my money and property. Why would I try to sell a car the moment I drove it off the lot? I determined that the car I was purchasing was worth the money I was giving for it, therefore, to me, it is worth exactly that.

That happened to my friend's relative... (2, Informative)

RulerOf (975607) | about 4 years ago | (#33907696)

That is why so many of them end up paying the ultimate price. Death as they cut a life wire.

I remember one day I was driving in to work listening to the radio and when they did the news stories I realized that I heard a familiar (and fairly unique) last name mentioned by the news lady. The next time the stories rolled around, it turned out that the story was that a would-be copper thief was electrocuted and died in the act, and he shared a last name with a very good friend of mine. Ironic, I thought.

A few days later, I'm visiting with my friend when he tells me that someone in his family died the week before trying to steal copper. [cleveland.com] One of the details that was left out of the news report though was that he wasn't working alone and was in fact left behind as dead by his surviving accomplices. Not that anyone in his family didn't think that he wasn't incredibly dumb for getting himself killed, but it was a shame nonetheless.

I never met the guy myself, and considering how tight-knit that family (or at least my friend's branch of it) is, I found myself surprised. However, given some of his obvious life choices (and friends... the men on that page look creepy as all hell) I'm not really surprised either :-P

Re:Does this crime really pay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907338)

It's the scale of what they steal that matters its a 10cm cable thats about 1km long.

Heres how they do it.
1. Dig test holes till you find a cable connection
2. attach cable to van
3. Slice cable and drive off.
4. keep going till the cable snaps
5. roll up cable cutting as needed
6. leave before people arrive

Re:Does this crime really pay? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 4 years ago | (#33907486)

Steeling copper telephone cables for their copper content is a pretty desperate crime - even at the spot price of copper quoted (the thief will be offered far less by the scrap-merchant) - they'd need to pinch an awful lot of it. There are surely much more lucrative metals to steel than this?

Oblig. Onion Link [theonion.com]

Re:Does this crime really pay? (1)

confused one (671304) | about 4 years ago | (#33907706)

Locally, someone was stealing the guard rail and brackets from a bridge. It was aluminum (the brackets were cast and the rail was extruded). They were only able to take one piece at a time, walking it down the overpass late at night. Aluminum is worth considerably less than copper. People who steal don't always do what makes sense.

Simple solution (5, Interesting)

germansausage (682057) | about 4 years ago | (#33906936)

Do the same for scrap metal dealers what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments. Payment by cheque only, mailed to the name and address of the government ID of the person selling the scrap metal. Discourages 90% of the "disorganized" (i.e. drug addicts and homeless) opportunistic or desperation type theft. The delay also lets the power and telco companies come around and retrieve their stolen goods before they get shipped off or melted down.

Re:Simple solution (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 4 years ago | (#33906964)

Perfect idea !!!

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907050)

I'm sure the cost of repairing the lines is much cheaper compared to the down time and they won't be waiting for their wires back.

I suggest something even simpler. Stick them in the roads or next to in large protected serviceable pipes. Of course some roads get a huge make over but nobody's stealing critical wires anymore, communications companies can help improve the roads and you can use it for other critical services like power!

Re:Simple solution (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907118)

The delay also lets the power and telco companies come around and retrieve their stolen goods before they get shipped off or melted down.

By the time stolen wiring gets to a scrap dealer it is generally in no state to be used for its original purpose. The only way it'd be worth retrieving is if it was wire/cable still on the original spool with undamaged insulation. And any scrap dealer that would even think of buying that knows damn well that they are buying stolen materials. Ditto when some twitchy methhead shows up with hundreds of pounds of copper wiring that got "burned up in a fire" or a similar amount of nice shiny household copper pipe.

Re:Simple solution (1)

cowscows (103644) | about 4 years ago | (#33907298)

Then we can look forwards to the desperation type thieves moving on to mugging us instead of just taking metal off of our buildings.

Get used to more and more crime, as our economy continues to unravel, more of the middle class is pushed into poverty, and much more of the population becomes desperate. And of course the people in charge will attempt to solve this problem by spending more on law enforcement and building new prisons while proudly claiming how tough they are on crime, when we'd get a better return on our tax dollars if we focused on helping these people rather than arresting them.

Re:Simple solution (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 4 years ago | (#33907398)

Do the same for scrap metal dealers what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments. Payment by cheque only, mailed to the name and address of the government ID of the person selling the scrap metal. Discourages 90% of the "disorganized" (i.e. drug addicts and homeless) opportunistic or desperation type theft. The delay also lets the power and telco companies come around and retrieve their stolen goods before they get shipped off or melted down.

Whenever I've sold scrap metal in the US, they've taken down my vehicle and driver's license number and cut me a check. And they're unwilling to buy building materials without some documentation of their provenance. Naturally, some scrap dealers must be rather less ethical and law-abiding than those I've dealt with, because copper guttering still gets ripped off churches.

Re:Simple solution (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 4 years ago | (#33907700)

Do the same for scrap metal dealers what they do here for pawnshops. Put a four week hold on all payments.

Huh, sounds like it's time to get into the scrap metal fencing business...

Hmm... (2, Funny)

multipartmixed (163409) | about 4 years ago | (#33906938)

police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains

This sounds like something out of a mother's-basement-dweller's worst nightmare!

Economic opportunity (0, Troll)

digitaldc (879047) | about 4 years ago | (#33906962)

Maybe if we had a lower income-gap, better paying jobs, and opportunity for people this wouldn't be such a problem?

Alternatively, you can just switch everything to buried cable, fiber-optic preferrably.

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

jwilso91 (1920940) | about 4 years ago | (#33906990)

So they can steal from their employers instead?

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#33907038)

So they can steal from their employers instead?

I think what the parent's point is that many of these folks are doing this to make a living. When one has their backs against the wall, they do desperate things.

It would be a great sociological study - finding out the motives for these crimes: poverty, drug habits, wanting some extra cash for luxury gods. etc....

Re:Economic opportunity (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 4 years ago | (#33907222)

I think what the parent's point is that many of these folks are doing this to make a living. When one has their backs against the wall, they do desperate things.

      This is the typical bleeding heart argument. And poor drug dealers, they're just trying to make a living too.

      You realize that a morally sound person will refuse to engage in this type of activity on principle, no matter how hard up they are? These people are the scum of the earth, their parents should never have had children because certainly they had no idea how to raise them. These opportunists are out to make a quick buck because they think the world owes them something, and they have no interest (or are probably amused by) the damage they cause to society. I'm just sad that because of bleeding heart like you we're not allowed to shoot them.

Re:Economic opportunity (4, Insightful)

caerwyn (38056) | about 4 years ago | (#33907456)

I don't believe that the parent said anything about not *blaming* the perpetrators for the crime. But punishment, in and of itself, is rarely a solution to anything- witness the perpetual failure that is the war on drugs.

It's perfectly reasonable to suggest that we investigate and attempt to fix the causes of crimes, *in addition* the punishing those caught perpetrating them.

The world is not black and white. Your "you must be a bleeding heart who's causing all our problems by not letting us shoot petty criminals" attitude is not a solution, it's part of the problem.

Re:Economic opportunity (2, Insightful)

Klinky (636952) | about 4 years ago | (#33907686)

There are actually quite a few morally questionable actions that are ignored everyday, performed by employees of corporations. Just because you have a legal job, doesn't mean you aren't screwing somebody over directly or part of a corporation that does it.

Not that this excuses thieves in general. Bad behavior is bad behavior.

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33907114)

Why the hell not, employers steal from the employees all the time. If the labor market hadn't become so distorted by corporate trickery it would be a completely different matter. Good luck getting anybody to care if your employer is stealing out of your paycheck or making you work off the clock.

I have genuine sympathy for employers that make a good faith attempt at following the laws and engaging in fair play, but there's a huge amount of pressure created by Wall Street to cut corners and do things which are harmful to the employees, whether or not there's a business justifications for doing it.

You don't inspire employee loyalty or productivity by making it tough for employees to survive on their salary alone.

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 4 years ago | (#33907326)

So they can steal from their employers instead?

We call that economic transaction "wages", not stealing. The criminalization of poverty and the assumption that the poor are all thieves is just astounding.

Re:Economic opportunity (5, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33907062)

Back when I was working as a mechanic, we had a guy that came around and bought up all our scrap. He was doing pretty well for himself...likely earning as much if not more than we were working in the shop. He ended up disappearing for a couple of months...when he returned, he said that he had been almost caught ripping copper out of a construction site (something he did regularly, apparently...which explains his lavish lifestyle given his collecting scrap life.)

He said he could make more money in a single copper run than he could in nearly three weeks worth of scrap collecting. I don't think opportunities or a lower income gap are the problems...I think it's an activity that pays really well compared to the effort required, at least if our old scrap guy is any indication.

Re:Economic opportunity (2, Insightful)

igny (716218) | about 4 years ago | (#33907068)

Maybe if we had a lower income-gap, better paying jobs, and opportunity for people this wouldn't be such a problem?

Alternatively we could legalize recycling of the broadband cables. A slogan: "Let's put it to a better use!"

Remember prohibition never worked in any war on anything. I am not an expert, but does anyone know any medicinal use of the broadband copper?

Of course that all depends on how broad is contraband of the broadband copper.

Re:Economic opportunity (4, Insightful)

david@ecsd.com (45841) | about 4 years ago | (#33907368)

The war on theft is one of those basic prohibitions that's been around since the dawn of civilization. When I leave for work in the AM, this prohibition helps to make sure my shit is still in my house when I get home. It's one of the lubricants for a smooth running society, and legalizing theft (as you seem to be advocating) is a monumentally Bad Idea.

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 years ago | (#33907084)

Maybe if we had a lower income-gap, better paying jobs, and opportunity for people this wouldn't be such a problem?

Ah the Nativity of youth. I have two words for you. Jeffrey Archer [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Economic opportunity (3, Funny)

JSBiff (87824) | about 4 years ago | (#33907248)

". . .Nativity . . ."

I don't think that word means what you think it means. I believe the word you are looking for is "naivety".

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33907322)

What, you were never in the school Christmas play?

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 4 years ago | (#33907724)

He was the manger.

Re:Economic opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907346)

Maybe if we had a lower income-gap, better paying jobs, and opportunity for people this wouldn't be such a problem?

Ah the Nativity of youth. I have two words for you. Jeffrey Archer [wikipedia.org] .

Oh, for the love of Jesus, learn the difference between "naiveté" and "Nativity"!

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

operagost (62405) | about 4 years ago | (#33907566)

Maybe if we had a lower income-gap, better paying jobs, and opportunity for people this wouldn't be such a problem?

Yes, and if women gave it up more easily, maybe we wouldn't have rape.

Re:Economic opportunity (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33907626)

You obviously haven't met my cousin Jack. You could give him a multi-million dollar job as a CEO and he would get fired the first day for stealing office supplies and selling them in the alley beside the building.

Most of the thieves I've known in my life weren't stealing because they lacked opportunity. They steal because they're life-long fuck-ups who have blown every opportunity that has ever been given to them.

Slashvertisment (1)

coofercat (719737) | about 4 years ago | (#33907024)

(one page print version: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/361783/putting-the-squeeze-on-the-broadband-copper-robbers/print [pcpro.co.uk] )

Since we're slashvertising, I had a bit of a play with Smartwater several years ago - it's actually very good stuff. Essentially, they've figured out a way to put a long unique code into UV reflective paste (which is pretty hard to clean off stuff - although not impossible, so it's best to put it in hard-to-reach places). You slap it onto anything you want to protect; the police can find it with simple UV, and can get the unique code by asking the Smartwater boffins to analyse it. It's used on money trucks, and claims to have a 100% prosecution rate (although I wonder if there's only been one prosecution or something). The Smartwater people keep your particular code unique for as long as you pay them rental of it. I wonder what they'd do if you buy some, use it, but then stop paying for it, yet some of your stuff gets nicked. I suspect they'll still tell the police who you are, but probably only after the current owner is consulted.

Re:Slashvertisment (1)

JSBiff (87824) | about 4 years ago | (#33907198)

"The Smartwater people keep your particular code unique for as long as you pay them rental of it."

That statement has a logical inconsistency. Either it's unique or it's not. I'd be pretty peeved if I was their customer, and found out the prosecution of someone stealing from me got screwed up because 5 years ago, a different customer was using the same code, stopped paying for it, and they re-assigned the code to me. If the code is sufficiently long, there is no reason for them to ever ever re-use a code. We're talking DNA encoding, right? Since DNA gives you four possible symbols to encode with (A, T, C, and G), the number of possible permutations for a sequence of N symbols is 4^N (four raised to the Nth power), right? A 48-symbol long DNA code would have approx 7.9E+28 possible unique codes.

I suppose it's possible that you wouldn't actually be able to use all the codes because of, for example, maybe very similar codes might become too easily corrupted into the other very similar codes through chemical or radioactive processes that would be likely to occur as the product is in use. But, it still seems to me that they can make the code as long as they need to, in order to have a large enough number of usable permutations that they don't need to re-use individual codes.

Re:Slashvertisment (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | about 4 years ago | (#33907232)

They claim [wired.com] to be able to encode over 10 billion unique values, so I doubt they plan ever to reuse codes -- they'll improve the product or go out of business long before they get 10 billion sales. The fee is probably to pay for using their lab to check for matches (also, it's far more lucrative than a one-time fee). So... I'm also curious what they do if they find a match that's not being paid for. Ethically, it would be nice if they told the police. From a business perspective, they don't want customers to know they'll still tell police even if you don't pay anymore, so they should keep it quiet. My guess is they remove the code from their database when you stop paying, so they honestly don't know one way or the other.

Re:Slashvertisment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907406)

Bollocks.

Smartwater is a con, sold to naive public services with more (taxpayer's) money than sense

Re:Slashvertisment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907432)

Semen has the same properties. It will glow in UV too.

Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 years ago | (#33907034)

There are two types of theft: stealing for necessity (food, medicine and such) and stealing for pleasure.

The guy who steals because he's starving is not even remotely the same as the guy who steals something which he doesn't need to survive.

There was a time when the latter were regarded without any mercy and rightly as the scum that they are. You could use force, even deadly force when necessary, in defense of property that no one needs to meet basic human needs.

Guess what? People pulled this shit a lot less often back then.

The irony of the accusation that letting people use serious force to defend their property is a form of barbarism is that the unlawful taking of property, especially when it damages entire parts of the community, is a real form of barbarism. Basic crime is a rejection of civil society.

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (2, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | about 4 years ago | (#33907074)

How long do you think it will be before people 'mask' murder as 'defending their property'. I believe in a justice system where criminals are tried based upon evidence presented to a jury of 12 members of the community, not people killing other people when their life (or *someones* life) is not in immediate jeopardy. Also, how do you, all-knowing one, know whether a man is stealing for survival or stealing 'for pleasure'?

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907430)

Half true half wrong. True people would be able to mask murder as defending, that's already possible with self defense laws, half wrong because IMO that is harder to mislead on then self defense, which at least in america is legal. Why would it be harder is simple, in general if you are trying to prove them as taking your proporty, you generally have to somehow lure them into your house. Basic police investigation would be able to detect struggle if they were dragged to your house. As much as I love the leave it to the police system, if you don't recognize the robber and he wore gloves and a hood, stalling him for 10-15 minutes for the police to arive on the scene (if you are lucky and live near a station). Guy is probably long gone, and that's also assuming he dosn't have some ability to defend himself (he obviously dosn't follow the law, so he may very well have weapons above what is legal in the location)

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907452)

Also, how do you, all-knowing one, know whether a man is stealing for survival or stealing 'for pleasure'?

Perhaps based on evidence presented to a jury of 12 members of the community?

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (1)

JSBiff (87824) | about 4 years ago | (#33907588)

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but the OP sounded like he was talking about 'on-the-spot justice' where you alone act as police, judge, jury, and executioner. If you just think we should allow courts to use capital punishment for theft, that's a bit different discussion.

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907262)

Problem: You can't know the motive for the theft without first knowing the thief. A person who steals your sports car might seem to be in it for the money - but he may really plan to sell the car, and use the money to feed his large family. The thief might argue that he would rather make one very large theft of a car than many hundreds of small thefts of foodstuffs.

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (4, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 4 years ago | (#33907318)

If I steal an apple from your fruit bowl, I can feed myself for a couple of hours.

If I steal your 52" plasma screen TV and fence it, I can feed myself for a month at least.

What I steal isn't the issue. Why I steal it isn't either. A homeless person stealing your TV is no less serious than a couple of chavs out with his mates doing the same thing. Theft is theft. If we looked after the homeless and less well off, we wouldn't have them stealing our stuff. At that point, we'd only have the opportunist and the greedy, which could well be dealt with by the methods you outlined. However, we need to care for the needy first.

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 4 years ago | (#33907742)

However, we need to care for the needy first.

Communist! Class warfare! Hitler!

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33907536)

Are you suggesting we form a copper posse? Because if you can supply us with S'more Schnapps, firearms, and horses, I'll join right now.

Re:Stealing for pleasure versus necessity (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 years ago | (#33907714)

The irony of the accusation that letting people use serious force to defend their property is a form of barbarism is that the unlawful taking of property, especially when it damages entire parts of the community, is a real form of barbarism. Basic crime is a rejection of civil society.

The idea that use of force in defense of your property is somehow bad is barbarianism. Old Japanese culture rested a lot on honor and dignity and such shit; whereas Western culture was always economics. We see value in human life, and we translate that into value in protecting life, and then into person: not only is it seen as a "loss" if you kill someone, but it's also a serious loss for society if you give them a sound but relatively harmless thrashing (even a broken arm will heal; bruises and bleeding are just pain and a little uglying up).

The Japanese figured Westerners as barbarians, since these are men that somehow put preservation of life and limb of petty thieves above honor. Even pre-communist China found it abhorrent that someone would take property that wasn't theirs. Eastern philosophy to charity also centered around the "teach a man to fish" principle: they might not give you a hand-out, but they'll put you to work and teach you to raise grain and fish so you can eventually A) get a job; and/or B) produce your own food. That's far more valuable than a soup kitchen.

So what our barbaric society has here is that someone who steals, rapes, and murders still has "rights" because somehow this is valuable to us. Honestly, I favor a society where they don't even blink if you come running out of the house chasing some guy down with a fucking sword because he just tried to rape and murder your wife/daughter/whatever. Oh wow, you cut his head off because he... tried to kill someone. ... yeah this seems fine. I really don't want someone like that running around, so good job.

Westerners don't understand the above sentiment, of course. What Americans and the British and French get from that is the insane idea that we should let violent, angry people go ahead and murder someone because they committed/attempted to commit a horrible crime. That's a base reflex reaction. What ACTUALLY happens in these societies is they see someone who would commit rape and murder as a disgusting creature with no honor; and they feel that not their life, but their dignity is attacked by the attempt. They destroy the person because it is shameful for them to live. Yes, that's right: a murderer or rapist is an abhorrent, shameful creature with no honor, so they kill him when he dares to attack their dignity by attempting his crimes against them or someone they care for.

The difference between a soldier and a warrior is that a warrior will shoot his own comrades in the face for raping and burning innocent civilians, women, and children that just happen to be in the way. These people can't handle the indignity of fighting alongside such barbarians. Granted, that was the philosophy of the Japanese; yet they regressed when they went to war with Korea, or so I hear, killing everything in their path.

Mmm, Smartwater. (1)

snarfies (115214) | about 4 years ago | (#33907064)

Meanwhile, in the USA, Smartwater is something very different indeed [glaceau.com] !

My Dad told me this (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 years ago | (#33907082)

As he was building up a wireless network in Indonesia. He told be, if they put copper up, someone would steal it.

On the other hand, he worked for RCA in New Jersey. The location put up a chained linked fence. And that got stolen.

Who the hell steals a fence? Ok, his name is Tony . . . .

Soooooo...... (5, Funny)

wowbagger (69688) | about 4 years ago | (#33907088)

So, I mess with your package, and I get sprayed with a florescent liquid containing DNA.

I hope they don't try to patent this, as I think there may be prior art.

Re:Soooooo...... (3, Funny)

mike2R (721965) | about 4 years ago | (#33907250)

So, I mess with your package, and I get sprayed with a florescent liquid containing DNA.

I hope they don't try to patent this, as I think there may be prior art.

I think you should maybe see a doctor... :P

Re:Soooooo...... (0)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 4 years ago | (#33907362)

So, I mess with your package, and I get sprayed with a florescent liquid containing DNA. I hope they don't try to patent this, as I think there may be prior art.

I think you should maybe see a doctor... :P

Actually, that's normal and healthy. You see, when a Mommy and a Daddy love each other very much . . .

Whoa! (1)

notknown86 (1190215) | about 4 years ago | (#33907140)

If UV lights prove of crime, my right hand is set for a life sentence

Given slashdot as the audience to this comment, so is yours..

Line test... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907482)

For a while now, thieves in the UK have been testing whether an access pit contains copper or fibre by chucking a bit of petrol and a match in. If it burns green, they've hit the jackpot, they put it out and pinch the copper cabling. Otherwise they just sod off and leave it burning. Nice.

Collect the water! (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 years ago | (#33907514)

Collect the cool, refreshing smart water and splash it on your mark's car. Pop the lock and splash it on his seat and steering wheels around 4am; roll the window down a bit before you do so. Make sure your chosen mark has the same kind of car as you. Also, wear a rain coat and rain hat and vinyl pants and gloves and boots, and dispose of all this after (before getting in YOUR car...). Put the cables in an isolation chamber (a cooler).

But Copper theft is down? (1)

kriston (7886) | about 4 years ago | (#33907548)

Wait, industry reports from radio to railroad have been been saying that copper theft is down because copper is also down.

Whom am I supposed to believe?

So... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | about 4 years ago | (#33907576)

how do the coppers cope with copper capers?

Tinfoil applied: Theory follows (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33907600)

Ok, this worrys me a bit if used in another application.

What if this were used to mark protesters at a rally?

Re:Tinfoil applied: Theory follows (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33907648)

Why would they bother? If they have you at a rally they already have you on film. I really don't understand the concern.

"SmartWater" (1)

miknix (1047580) | about 4 years ago | (#33907712)

The SmartWater liquid carries a DNA fingerprint that links a criminal to the scene of the crime and police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains to make an arrest after the trap has been sprung.

That's why my kids drink SmartWater at breakfast. Just in case..

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