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Mon August 02 2021

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Police set up plant theft unit

1 Jul A new privately-funded police unit has been set up to combat plant theft.

The logo of the new Opal Agricultural & Construction Equipment unit
The logo of the new Opal Agricultural & Construction Equipment unit

The Opal national intelligence unit has set up a unit called ACE – Agricultural & Construction Equipment – funded by equipment manufacturers and insurance companies.

It comes two years after the collapse of the Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU), which was folded because the police were longer prepared to fund it.

Opal was established in April 2019 and is based at West Mercia Police Headquarters, under the leadership of DCC Amanda Blakeman, the national policing lead for serious organised acquisitive crime (SOAC). It has a team of 10 that liaises with police forces and industry partners nationwide to combat organised theft.

Its new ACE unit will work to reduce the theft of stolen construction and farm machinery and recover stolen equipment, both nationally and internationally.

Officers from ACE will work to develop, collate and co-ordinate intelligence to identify and disrupt organised criminality.

The unit is funded by donations from the Construction Equipment Association, the Agricultural Engineers Association and insurance companies Allianz, Aviva, Axa, HSB Engineering Insurance, NFU Mutual and QBE.

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Detective Inspector Ernie Locke, Opal National Intelligence Unit (SOAC), explained: “ACE sits under the Opal umbrella and benefits from a dedicated intelligence team…By working smarter and in partnership with law enforcement agencies, government agencies, business and industry also, academia it will deliver a whole system approach in tackling agriculture and construction equipment theft.It is anticipated that ACE team will continue to grow as their contribution is recognised in this area of criminality.

“Our role has many facets including problem-solving skills, delivering the four Ps strategy of prepare, prevent, protect and pursue, identifying emerging threats and intelligence on a regional, national and international level.By working collaboratively, sharing best practice and the timely sharing of information, the ACE unit will help reduce agricultural and construction equipment theft.”

The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) has spent the past couple of years working on a successor to PANIU, which was hosted by the Metropolitan Police Service. PANIU was set up in 2008 and over 10 years recovered 824 machines to the aggregate value of more than £17m. Statistics for its final year of operation, 2018,show that 650 mini excavators were stolen that year, 463 site dumpers, 236 tractors 229 rollers and 137 telehandlers.

CEA chief executive Rob Oliver welcomed the launch of the new unit: “Stakeholders through the industry have been keenly awaiting this initiative to come to fruition, so it is great that it is now in operation with the partnership with Opal. We will be engaging with companies and organisations, such as CITS (Combined Industry Theft Solutions), to support the work of ACE in what is an evolving criminal threat”.

Opal Ace can be contacted at opal@westmercia.pnn.police.uk

The Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU) was shut down two years ago due to funding issues
The Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU) was shut down two years ago due to funding issues

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