BT has unveiled a new network ‘burglar alarm’ which it hopes will prevent thieves stealing its copper cabling.

The software – called Rabit – monitors signals across BT’s network and detects when a cable has been cut or damaged, narrowing down the incident to a road or street.

Every month there are around 40 arrests related to BT cable theft. Around 80 per cent of BT’s cable theft is carried out by organised crime gangs, and the company said it has recovered 240 tonnes of stolen metal in the past eleven months, as a result of visits to scrap metal dealers and working with police forces.

Paul Crowther, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police, said the software will significantly improve police response times to cable theft incidents.

The system alerts BT’s security centre, and police response teams, when cable thieves attack the company’s copper telephone and broadband network. BT said a trial of the technology has already forced cable thieves in Essex to flee the scene of the crime empty handed.

Theft of copper cabling – and other metals – has increased as the economy has suffered, with thefts of the cabling costing BT and other companies millions of pounds each year. Thieves have also targeted bronze war memorials and sculptures.