Police forces across the country are launching operations to clamp down on the theft of copper cabling, which is leaving thousands of shops and businesses without phone or internet access.

The price of scrap metals such as copper has continued to soar in the past year and is pushing the theft up to record levels.

In Derbyshire, operation Calanthia will include tough enforcement action against those involved in the crime as well as raising awareness with local businesses and the public.

Similar operations are also being undertaken in North Wales, Nottingham and Devon.

Last month tens of thousands of shops and homes in Somerset were left with no phone or internet connections after thieves stealing copper wire struck at two locations across the region. According to BT the thieves took a "substantial" amount of copper wire from the phone exchange, but accidentally cut through a fibre-optic cable which contained the main phone exchange line between Yeovil and Taunton knocking out phone lines and broadband connection.

Shops in the Kingston area of Milton Keynes were also plunged into chaos in August after thieves stole two copper cables worth £15,000. The theft left shops without phone lines, internet and electronic payment systems for an entire weekend.

A spokesman for BT Openreach said copper theft was costing the UK economy £770m a year. It is currently awaiting the results of a trial in South London which sought to reduce theft by working with outside agencies and engaging with the public.

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