Metal theft hits phones

THIEVES have cut off phones in Huntingdonshire for the fourth time in just over four months after they again stole cables belonging to BT. The metal thieves have also targeted electricity substations in the St Neots area 12 TIMES since the beginning of t

THIEVES have cut off phones in Huntingdonshire for the fourth time in just over four months after they again stole cables belonging to BT.

The metal thieves have also targeted electricity substations in the St Neots area 12 TIMES since the beginning of the year.

And despite a high profile policing operation, more residents can expect to have their lives disrupted by metal thefts as stopping the thieves is proving to be a mammoth task.

About 100 homes and businesses in Great Staughton were without phone lines and internet connections this week following the theft of 500 metres of cabling.


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The theft took place in the early hours of Monday morning and follows similar incidents which twice disrupted phone lines in Alconbury and once in Great Gidding.

While BT sends engineers to fix the problems, the company said Cambridgeshire is having to cope with more than its fair share of cable and metal theft.

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BT added that it hoped the lines would be reconnected by the end of the week at the latest, but the theft has caused huge disruption in Great Staughton.

Stephen Anderson, manager of the village's Snooty Tavern, said: "It has caused us major disruption and no end of problems.

"We have been left without a working phone line so we cannot phone through any of our orders, and people who might be trying to phone and book a table must be wondering what is going on."

A BT spokesman said: "Our engineers have been working through the night and will continue until the lines are back on. This may take a couple of days but hopefully should be completed by the end of the week."

She added that BT had been targeted by metal thieves up and down the country, but the problem seemed to be particularly prevalent in Cambridgeshire and East of England.

Indeed, in both October and December last year thieves struck in Alconbury Weston, leaving phone lines at homes and businesses cut off. And at the beginning of January, 500 metres of phone cable was stolen from Great Gidding, leaving villagers without landlines.

The 12 incidents at substations all happened between January 1 and February 4.

Police are concerned the thieves are not only putting themselves at risk, but members of the public are also risking their lives when they investigate the damage.

According to officers, in four months from July to October last year, there were 657 metal thefts in the county. This was more than double the number for the same period in 2006.

Police have staged dawn raids and arrested six suspected metal thieves as part of Operation Saruman, but the rural locations across the county cannot be constantly patrolled and are vulnerable.

Speaking to The Hunts Post yesterday (Tuesday), DI Andy Gipp, said: "We are realistic in our approach and know this is a crime that police cannot tackle alone.

"Members of the public should remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour."

INFORMATION: Contact police on 0845 4564564 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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