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Fri August 19 2022

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Site closures result in spike in plant thefts

8 Apr 20 The temporary shut-down of construction sites across the country has, perhaps unsurprisingly, led to a dramatic upturn in the number of plant thefts.

This Volvo was stolen and sold to an unwitting buyer who lost their money when its true provenance was discovered
This Volvo was stolen and sold to an unwitting buyer who lost their money when its true provenance was discovered

Clancy Docwra reports a 50% spike in thefts of tools and construction machinery from its sites while other anecdotal evidence suggests that such incidences have perhaps doubled in the past few weeks.

“The Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ has meant that it’s currently ‘open season’ for criminal gangs who target construction plant,” said Nick Mayell, Datatag’s CESAR police training and liaison officer and security expert. “The abrupt abandonment of work-sites has left machinery unsecured and vulnerable.  Whereas a company would normally ‘wind-down’ for seasonal closures by ‘off-hiring’ kit and moving their own machines – sites have closed overnight - in the blink of an eye – and the thieves are having a field day.”

CESAR is the Construction and Agricultural Equipment Security and Registration; Datag supplies the forensic tagging technology that maintains proof of ownership and keeps track of machines’ location.

Mr Mayell added: “The shifting of kit has also become much easier as trucks and vans are moving freely during the lockdown where car travel is restricted to ‘essential’.”

Ian Elliott, group head of security, Clancy Docwra, is vice chairman of Combined Industries Theft Solutions (CITS). He advised: “Firms should be aiming at removing the majority of tools and plant away from site compounds. Where traditionally companies would perhaps have used plant containers, during these challenging times companies are advised to leave these almost empty and remove plant and tools to a head-office, where possible, or placing the tools and small kit, within brick or concrete buildings well out of sight of the criminals.

“For sites where a company can’t physically remove kit, then the machinery should be placed within containers and for the containers to be blocked in by placing large concrete blocks or vehicles in front of the containers – blocking the doors. Keys for the vehicles must not be left on site.”

The Covid-19 virus has not only led to an increase in plant theft but has also added further delay to the launch of a new Agricultural Construction Equipment national police unit to co-ordinate the fight against plant theft. This is in the works to take over the work of the old Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU), which closed last year when the Metropolitan Police Service pulled the plug on it. [See our previous report here.]

It had been hoped that the new unit would be launched on 1st April 2020, but this has now been postponed until 1st October 2020.

CEA chief executive Rob Oliver said: “The good thing is that, although the new national police unit is delayed, there is still active industry/police co-operation going on. This is made possible by the expertise of the CESAR Police Liaison Team, CITS and others stepping up their services to combat this crime wave. Police officers may have other urgent concerns at present, but the 24/7 CESAR call centre remains as a quick check resource for them when they need to identify suspicious plant. At the moment, it is all about working together to help protect our people and our businesses.”

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