UK

Railway cable theft up 70% as overall crime falls

Image caption A BTP officer searches for stolen cable and metal during a scrapyard visit

Cable thefts from Britain's railways has increased by more than two-thirds, according to British Transport Police (BTP).

BTP said cable thefts were up 70% but overall crime fell by 2.9% in 2010/11, the seventh successive annual decrease.

The force said the crime caused significant disruption to rail services and incurred huge financial costs on the rail industry.

BTP said it had increased resources to tackle the thefts.

There were 60,458 crimes on the railways between 1 April 2010, and 31 March this year, compared with 62,295 in the previous 12 months, BTP said.

There were 2,712 cable thefts in 2010/11 compared with 1,593 in the previous 12 months, it said.

'Real challenge'

"We know that during difficult economic times acquisitive crime is likely to increase, and these figures show that," said BTP Chief Constable Andy Trotter.

"Cable theft is a real challenge for us, the rail industry and other utilities.

"Metal theft causes significant disruption to rail services and that means real consequences for real people - missed business meetings, family celebrations and appointments for instance.

"And that's not to mention the huge financial costs to the rail industry and the dangers to the thieves themselves.

"We have increased the resources we are devoting to this issue and are working closely with Network Rail to find more effective ways of reversing this trend."

The force says the soaring cost of scrap copper has driven up cable thefts.

BTP said there was a 2.8% drop in violent offences to 8,158 and there were 1.6% fewer robberies (689 in total).

The figures suggested sexual offences rose by 0.5% to 947, along with theft of passenger property (up 2.2% to 16,648) and fraud (up 4.5% to 977).

Criminal damage fell by 12.6% to 5,017 offences, along with drug offences, which fell by 27.7% to 4,325, and public order offences, which fell by 5.7% to 6,437, according to the statistics.

Last month, Network Rail said passengers were delayed by 6,088 hours over the past year because of cable theft.

The rail operator said thefts had cost it £16.5m to replace stolen cable and compensate train operators for lost service.

Its figures showed the number of theft incidents in the 2010-11 financial year jumped by 52% to 995 on the railways it controls.

BTP figures are higher because they include all rail networks, including the London Underground and DLR, a spokesman for the force said.

Dyan Crowther, director of operational services at Network Rail, said the crime had to stop.

"Cable thieves deny passengers the service they rightly expect and, through the massive cost to the industry, deny everyone improvements to rail services," he said.

"We are doing everything we can to protect the railway and will continue to work closely with British Transport Police and other rail partners to do everything in our power to deter thieves and bring those who attack our network to justice."

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