A worrying increase in construction machinery theft has been noted in the UK since the introduction of the lockdown caused by the Corona Virus pandemic. Data available shows a 50% jump in theft of construction machines from UK sites.
With so many construction sites shut down due to the lockdown, this has given thieves an opportunity to capitalise.
The Construction Equipment Association (CEA), owners of the CESAR scheme (the plant marking and registration initiative), is providing information to machine owners on the latest crime spree and talks to industry specialists. According to the CEA, experts are able to offer sound advice to construction firms on measures they can take to help prevent plant and tool theft, and how companies can assist police with the recovery and identification of stolen kit.
David Smith, chairman CITS (Combined Industries Theft Solutions) commented on the current situation, “As a result of the Coronavirus situation, some construction sites have been forced to close, and personnel, including on-site security, have left. Under these circumstances, organised criminal gangs may try to exploit the situation.
The CEA says that where construction plant and equipment has been left on site, it is hoped that the police will be as vigilant as ever. Any unusual activity, on or near construction sites which have closed, needs to be investigated. This also applies to any unusual transport movements for construction plant, for example, during an unusual time, or if the vehicle is moving numerous items of plant belonging to different companies.
“The Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ has meant that it’s currently ‘open season’ for criminal gangs who target construction plant” commented 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.”
The Covid-19 virus has not only impacted on the increase in Plant theft – but the situation is also partly responsible for the delay in launching the new Agricultural Construction Equipment national police unit.
The CEA is still progressing agreements with the police and key insurers to support a new Agricultural Construction Equipment (ACE) national police unit, which will be the successor for the original Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU). Whilst best intentions were to announce the launch of new unit on 1st April 2020, this has now been postponed until 1st October 2020 due to unforeseen hurdles.
Rob Oliver, chief executive CEA stated, “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.”