Police in Southampton are urging residents to report any unusual activity as criminals are targeting industrial sites to steal copper cable.

Sites under threat include railway lines, power substations, water works, hospitals, schools, construction yards and even war memorials, among others.

The thieves use vehicles to haul the copper a number of miles before preparing it for sale, posing a risk to public safety and damage to property.

Experts are stating that the crime spree is not only financially crippling but also strategically harmful to the UK's infrastructure, leading to transport delays, power shortfalls and connectivity loss.

Law enforcement sources say that this type of crime has surged by 20 per cent compared to last year and is widespread across the UK.

Reports have been received of criminals stealing cable and then returning to the same location to steal the replaced cable. Large quantities of cable have been stolen from solar farms in the southern region.

In April, two incidents of individuals intruding on northern Hampshire solar farms after dark were reported.

Police warn people to watch out for unmarked vehicles near access points or construction sites and unfamiliar individuals hanging around entrances or areas with vulnerable items.

Checking for signs of criminal reconnaissance on fences, suspicious behaviour among workers, and activities outside normal working hours are also flagged.

The police have published preventive measures which include ensuring CCTV systems are functioning and capture good quality images. Site access is well secure and any security issues should be reported to the police.

Residents are urged to report any unusual activities, regardless of how minor they may appear.

If a criminal act is suspected, the public are encouraged to report it to the police, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

In case of an ongoing crime or emergency, dial 999 and, in a non-emergency, call 101 or use the reporting tool at www.hampshire.police.uk.

If targeted, the site's owners should immediately notify the police.

The police also advise taking photographs of any unfamiliar footprints or vehicle tracks.