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Cable gangs wreak havoc

PUBLISHED: 14:18 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:44 25 August 2010

TARGETED: Plumber Darrell Williamson is affected by metal theft.

TARGETED: Plumber Darrell Williamson is affected by metal theft.

COPPER thefts are wreaking havoc, costing businesses millions of pounds and affecting thousands of residents. On Tuesday energy supplier EDF revealed the multi-million pound cost of a suspected arson attack in July last year, which affected nearly 100,00

COPPER thefts are wreaking havoc, costing businesses millions of pounds and affecting thousands of residents.

On Tuesday energy supplier EDF revealed the multi-million pound cost of a suspected arson attack in July last year, which affected nearly 100,000 across Bexley and Dartford.

Large companies, small businesses and even independent plumbers are being targeted by gangs, due to a 300 per cent rise in the value of the metal.

The fire at the EDF sub-station in Central Road, Dartford, caused a three-day blackout that led to chaos for homeowners and businesses.

An EDF spokesperson said: "The whole incident has cost millions of pounds.

"The incident is disappointing because, as people know, the impact of the actions, as well as being extremely dangerous, disrupted the lives of thousands of people for several days and led to major works, involving hundreds of EDF Energy Networks staff, to repair that damage."

The three-day blackout prompted thousands of complaints and led EDF to issue £50 "goodwill gestures" to many of the 93,000 customers affected.

They also had a dedicated team spending several days repairing the cable bridge and imported massive generators to the worst affected areas.

Kent Police were unable to confirm whether the fire was due to a raid on the copper piping but said the incident had all the hallmarks of a gang targeting the

valuable metal.

The news follows an explosion in the number of copper thefts nationwide, with thieves stealing phone lines in Esher, Surrey, worth around £70,000 last week, affecting more than 2,000 homes.

Plumber Darrell Williamson, of Trust Assured Plumbing Services in Crayford, said the problem is getting worse after the value of the metal rose by nearly 300 per cent over the past year.

He said: "I have had to take the tube off my van as I can't keep any copper on there.

"I have had two rubble sacks from my garden stolen, which were worth about £80 or £90.

"People that do this are filthy. Scrap metal dealers usually ask us if they can take items from our skips but we don't expect our vans to be done over.

"A customer in Bexleyheath told us about a man who she found in her garage looking for scrap metal. It is wrong. How can you stop them? You can't."

Assistant manager of City Plumbing Supplies in Myrtledene Road, Abbey Wood, Ron Hitchcock, said: "We had £3,000 or £4,000 worth of copper stolen. They just climbed the fence and got it.

"We got it back on insurance. We hear about copper getting stolen all the time from plumbers."

Copper cabling is a vital part of communication systems for the public and businesses. The Scrap Metal Act 1964 means metal dealers should ask for identification.

A BT spokesperson said: "Copper theft is a serious crime that is on the rise.

"In recent months, BT has been the victim of a number of incidents of copper theft from our telephone network, which has sometimes led to service problems for customers in those areas.

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