‘Marked’ rise in plant theft since sites closed


THERE has reportedly been a ‘marked’ increase in construction plant and tool theft since sites across the UK closed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CEA (Construction Equipment Association), owners of the CESAR scheme, has reported on the latest ‘crime spree’ and spoken to specialists to offer advice on how to help prevent theft.

David Smith, chairman of CITS (Combined Industries Theft Solutions) said, “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.

“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 lockdown has resulted in ‘open season’ for gangs who target construction plant, according to Nick Mayell, Datatag’s CESAR Police training and liaison officer and security expert. He revealed, “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.”

Ian Elliott, group head of security, Clancy Docwra and CITS vice chairman 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 CEA said the Covid-19 virus has also been 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 national unit, which will be the successor for the original Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU). The intention was to announce the launch of the new unit on April 1, but this has now been postponed until October.

Rob Oliver, chief executive of the CEA commented, “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.”