back to article 'World's first' dog to sniff out pilfered cabling is Brit black lab

A dog named Jazz has been trained to sniff out forensic markings on metal to help cops nab crooks who pinch copper cabling from BT's underground telephone network. Come on, show us your Jazz hands The two-year-old black labrador from Blackpool was described as the "first detection dog" of its kind in the world to sniff out …


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  1. historymaker118
    Black Helicopters

    Anyone else

    Think this is a conspiracy by those wanting copper wire replaced by fibre optic...

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Anyone else

      Trouble is, fibre still gets yanked up on the off chance it might be copper.

      The story I heard was that a company installing cable had put notices up saying something along the lines of "OPTICAL FIBRE CABLE - DOES NOT CONTAIN COPPER".

      The thieves left a note, next to the yanked fibre, saying "Sorry - we have to check."

      Still, a beer for them if it helps get rid of all that copper.

    2. shade82000

      Re: Anyone else

      That my be so, but it's not just data - I can always jack next door's connection.

      Unless you have designs for fibre optic power lines for the national grid and the railways then something like this could prove to be a really useful deterrent.

      It's not a pleasant experience when trains are cancelled because someone stole the cables. Having said that, it must take some balls to go near a live cable, not to mention actually stealing it. If I ever met a cable thief, I wouldn't know whether to hit him or shake his hand.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anyone else @shade82000

        Working for a company in the power sector this has been a problem for years now. The thieves aren't brave, they are stupid, and often enough they do try and steal live cables, frequently with uncomfortable results. And for every single one that gets electrocuted, I think "serves you ****ing right!"

      2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          Selective breeding

          They don't need to be PhDs.

          They just need to be smarter than Plod

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stereopsis demoted to a mere two dimensions

    3D still the superlative du jour, I see.

    1. Ryan 7

      Re: Stereopsis demoted to a mere two dimensions

      Stereo vision is pretty much 2D+

      HOWEVER, that still only makes smell 1D+, maybe 1D++ if you're being generous.

      It's the resolution that really matters.

  3. TRT Silver badge

    Funnily enough...

    down our road last night, I happened to see a black labrador laying a cable.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't eyes see in 3d?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Um...

      No. Brains do. Sort of. If you stretch the semantics of 'see'.

    2. frank ly

      Re: Um...

      No, the brain creates a 3D model based on various factors, but the eyes create 2D images (of surprisingly poor resolution away from the centre region of vision.)

      1. Lee Dowling

        Re: Um...

        And you're telling me that a nose is any different, being a "1D" sensor ("2D" at best), and operating on the principle that the dog that turn their head and see which way smells strongest and then crawl in and out of 3D space to find the target?

        When was the last time you "smelled" which direction something came from without turning your head to get more than one reading in 3D space?

      2. Elmer Phud

        Re: Um...

        'kin cheap models that use upscaling to fool the punter they've bought decent HD - brains are just a con trick that's played on the user.

        my nose smells

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um...

      I think what they really mean is that eyes only see the surface objects while the sniffer dog is able to sense the scent of objects behind/below the surface.

      Anyway, glad to see the authorities taking metal theft seriously now ... a few years ago when it was mainly lead from Church roofs they were remarkably reluctant to get involved ... to the extent of when they found a gang on the roof of a local church they accepted their explanation of "we climbed up on the roof to admire the view" and took no action.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Steve Evans

    I hope...

    I hope their forensic markers are tough, as the standard way to liberate the valuable metal from their protective plastic wrapping is a good old bonfire.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I hope...

      The idea is to locate the cables before they get melted down. Most thieves lack the equipment to melt down metal (it takes at least some skill, equipment, and outlay to have a smelting works, which is in turn a little difficult to conceal), so they fence it off to some disreputable scrap heap who would at the least have the machinery to mash the stolen cabling down to something that a proper recycler wouldn't recognize as stolen wire.

      I believe Jazz is meant to intercept stolen cable at the scrap heap stage as the scrap heap usually has the technology to disguise the loot but not that needed to destroy the markers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I hope...

        He isn't talking about melting the copper, just removing the plastic insulation. Most scrap dealers will pay more for plain metal than they will for metal with other stuff mixed in (be it insulation, bolted on components, etc).

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: I hope...

          IIRC there are two ways to beat the bonfire. One is to use heat-resistant marking compounds, preferably on or in the metal itself, meant to not break down until nearly the metal's melting point. Another way is compounds like SmartWater that are designed to rub off very easily once it's been handled, leaving telltale signs all over you and your stuff that are very hard to wash off and easy to spot once subjected to a UV scan.

  7. Mondo the Magnificent

    2D, 3D?

    I dated a girl named "Jazz".. she was a Double D!

    Back to the subject at hand

    About 10 years back in Zimbabwe they replaced copper with fibre optic cables in the city of Harare to prevent cable thefts

    Towards Christmas time, street sellers were flogging illuminated Christmas trees made from the fibre cables they had stolen!

    What is needed are harsher sentences for cable thieves and those responsible for dealing in stolen cable..

    1. JimmyPage

      Harsh sentences

      The problem is you can only go so far before juries start getting nervous about convicting. Which is why, despite apparent public approval, we don't get the draconian punishments for death by dangerous driving we could have - juries simply stop convicting.

      It's one of the reasons the death penalty got abolished.

      Not that I don't agree with the sentiment (yours that is, not about the DP which I am opposed to).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Harsh sentences

        Sinple fix is to go after the buyers of stolen metal.

        There's no way of disguising stolen road signs and drain covers, so I doubt that the thieves of telephone cables bother to burn off the insulation when there's evidently sufficent scrap metal merchants willing to buy stolen property fairly openly. Just change the regulations to make the site waste disposal licence revokable for handling stolen property, and then force the worst offenders out of business, making a big song and dance in the trade press as you do it. The potential fines will be insignificant if they have to flog their business in a fire sale, or shut it down.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Thick drain covers and large-and-flat road signs are one thing, but what's to stop a scrap heap owner using some mechanical muncher to cut stolen copper cabling down to shreds such that a recycler would be hard pressed to identify it as stolen wire...or even as wire? The key is that this kind of process doesn't destroy the markers (melting, OTOH, would).

  8. Jon Double Nice

    I'm not convinced

    that they are the world's first dog. Its says its only two years old, and I'm pretty certain I saw dogs around the place before two years ago...

  9. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Meanwhile in SA

    I was in SA recently and what they do there is send a fella down the manhole with a chain. He wraps the chain around the thickest looking cable and then puts the other end of the chain on a truck. They then take a good run up with the truck before the chain goes tight and it rips about 100m of cable out of the ground.

  10. Dan Paul

    RE: @ Charles 9 "I Hope"

    Folks, what Steve Evans was alluding to was the fact that these thieves BURN the insulation off the copper wire because stripping it off manually takes too much time. The copper is quite oxidized at that point so any chemical or scent markers would probably be useless.

    The burning of the PVC insulation also causes toxic off gassing including the creation of Dioxin which you may note is one of the more toxic pollutants available. (See Times Beach or Love Canal)

    We just had someone steal our main power feed wires between the transformer and the building (480 VAC 3 phase 1200 amp service) during a weekend and it was all live. A pair of plastic insulated rachet loppers (Big pruning shears) and some good high voltage gloves are all that is required.

    We ended up putting a large metal shield over the groung level portion of the wiring and installing cameras.

    The solution is to further regulate the junkyard operators and have inspectors come to each of these junkyards at least once a month to identify the copper cabling which is pretty easy once you see what it looks like. Most industrial wiring is quite large diameter. The residential stuff is more difficult. The hardest to identify is copper water piping or roof flashing. A log of the persons bringing in ANY COPPER will provide a trail to start from.

    Make it a felony to accept ANY stolen metals with a mandatory $500,000 fine and 20 years in jail. The junkers will stop accepting stolen stuff pretty quickly. Then require a photocopy of a photo ID from the person bringing in the copper as part of the records. Don't think that junkers don't have that kind of money because anyone who has a reasonably large junkyard is a millionaire in most cases.

    1. Matt 33
      Big Brother

      Re: RE: @ Charles 9 "I Hope"

      In the UK at least, it already is a crime (felony/misdemeanour distinction doesn't apply, crime = crime).

      And, as we love CCTV here, all scrap yards I know of have CCTV of people vehicles coming in, maintain logs and records of who they take stuff from....

      In other words, there's an awful lot of bull talked about in the UK press: It already is illegal, the police have the sanctions at their disposal, they just need to get off their elbows and use the technology and law available to them

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: RE: @ Charles 9 "I Hope"

        Its simpler than that

        Ban all scrapyards from paying anything other than direct credit transfer to a bank account, no cash, no cheques, every purchase of scrap will have a record... if the police do a raid and find 100lbs of copper more than the records show has been bought, then the scrappie gets his scrap licence removed and is shut down.

        But nothing is ever done until the local tea leafs start nicking manhole covers..

        And the skip we left outside our metal bashing factory marked copper scrap only.?.. shame there was nothing but low grade steel chippings in it, but it saved us paying the scrappie to take it away :-)

        (and yes they did try flogging it to a scrappie.. who noticed the sign saying "property of XXXXX engineering ltd")

        1. Aqua Marina

          Re: RE: @ Boris

          We marked all ours with "Stolen from xxxxx engineering company ltd"

        2. jb99

          Re: RE: @ Charles 9 "I Hope"

          This sounds like a good idea except that its the start of a slippery slope to requiring this for more and more transactions "to help catch criminals" and before we know it every transaction has be to reported to the government and cash is effectively illegal as we can't be tracked.

  11. handle

    Posters on cabinets

    Off-topic, but the picture in the article shows a BT ad for fibre pasted to the green cabinet. I have seen lots of these. Now I know BT might own that cabinet, but it doesn't mean they have a right to turn it into a billboard. Might try reporting it to the local authority and see what happens.

  12. KBeee Silver badge

    To Burn or not To Burn

    You get a much better price for "clean" copper than for cable etc. hence half an hour in a bonfire before taking the loot to the scrapyard will nearly double your money. I guess the side effect would be destroying any tell-tale odour markers.

  13. Richard J


    Are you sure that isn't the Essex lion on the second photo?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK poverty line...

    It's always amusing to read of cable thieves. I've never been affected by one. I think it has to do with the poor. You've got to be pretty poor to steal cable.

    1. Thorne

      Re: The UK poverty line...

      "It's always amusing to read of cable thieves. I've never been affected by one. I think it has to do with the poor. You've got to be pretty poor to steal cable."

      Ummm no

      Copper thieves are a problem everywhere. The poor nick small amounts and the better off use trucks and winches and nick a heap more.

  15. Why Not?

    WEE regulations ?

    Surely anything more than a drum of 2.5 mm cable is non domestic and therefore covered by WEE.

    Take their scrap licence off them if they are receiving commercial waste without a licence & proper records.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pretty cool!

    Now if they could train dogs to sniff out pirates and have them bite the pirates arse, the world would be a better place. It doesn't matter if you are stealing copper or digital goods, you're still stealing and you should be punished.

  17. James 100

    The worst thing with the people stealing power lines is sometimes they take the *earth* wire. I remember hearing one substation (in England I think) where that happened ... causing power disturbances which wrecked lots of electronics.

    Now, if we could just get these people to shim up a National Grid 400kV transmission line and grab that with just their rubber gloves, the world would be a better place!

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