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Week-long nationwide operation next spring will be the biggest and most co-ordinated undertaken

Police plan theft blitz

THE POLICE are to stage a major blitz on construction equipment next spring to crack down on plant theft and the -organised criminals behind it.

The operation will see forces nationwide undertake raids in a week-long campaign. It will be the first time the police have targeted plant theft with such a co-ordinated national effort.

The move, intended to reinforce the message of the Cesar security scheme launched by the Metropolitan Police and the Construction Equipment Association earlier this year, will follow a police conference on plant theft.

Under the Cesar registration scheme, machines are issued triangular plates with a unique five-digit number to allow easy identification of the owner.

Manufacturers such as JCB and Daewoo have committed to registering all eligible new machines at no cost to the buyer, while hirers such as A-Plant and GE Capital are insisting on their new fleets being registered.

A number of public bodies including the Greater London Authority are to insist machines on their sites have the plates fitted. But despite pressure from the police, the Olympic Development Authority has yet to formally commit to put it in its contract terms.

Metropolitan Police DC Ian Elliott said the national crackdown should send a message to both industry and criminals. He said: "The police intend to be all over construction equipment. We are also asking crime prevention officers to go to the local authorities to drum the registration message home."

The high-profile operation is expected to fuel the formation of a national -police squad dedicated to plant theft. Its aim will be to gather intelligence on the organised criminal gangs responsible for a large proportion of theft. But DC Elliott said the squad still needed more funds to ensure its success as a national operation. He said: "We still need the industry to support us on this."

Evidence from theft specialist

TER suggests the criminals have now expanded into continental Europe to move stolen equipment into former Eastern Bloc countries.

TER managing director Tim Purbrick said: "We are working with Interpol to crack down on these movements, but we know there is UK registered equipment and even machines with British hirers' names on still being driven around eastern Europe."

The Home Office is also preparing to publish its revised best practice guidance on plant theft for contractors and machine owners.

DC Elliott said: "By the time of the national campaign, the industry will have no excuses over plant theft."