Telecoms giant BT today launched a drive to target thieves who steal cables in the face of a big increase in the crime fuelled by surging scrap copper prices.
Thieves are targeting the copper contained in the local telecoms network, leaving affected areas cut off and costing BT millions of pounds every year.
There was a 9% increase in incidents last year, leading to more than 200 arrests.
BT's Openreach Division has started to use SmartWater, an invisible solution which forensically tags thieves, staying on their skin for up to 60 days.
Bernie Auguste, head of security at Openreach, said: "From now on, any criminal who targets the BT network risks being invisibly tagged with SmartWater, meaning that the police can trace them, and any stolen cable or equipment, back to the scene of the crime.
"Cable theft affects not only us as a business, but the millions of people who rely on access to phones and broadband across the UK, and with the help of this technology we're fighting back."
Detective Inspector Robin Conway of British Transport Police said: "Cable and metal theft is high on BTP's agenda due to the disruption and economic effect it has on businesses and communities. Anyone arrested for metal theft will be examined for traces of SmartWater.
"A search will be made of the person's house and any property, including vehicles with traces of SmartWater on them, is likely to be seized by police. Scrap metal dealers will also be visited regularly to ensure they are assisting British Transport Police in identifying criminals attempting to sell stolen metal."