Insurance consortium pledges £250,000 to target £600m a year crime rings.

A new Metropolitan police unit funded almost entirely by the insurance industry will be launched this week to target organised crime rings stealing plant from construction sites, which cost the industry £600m a year.

A consortium of insurers and brokers including Allianz, RSA, HSB Haughton, Zurich and Norwich Union have pledged a total of £250,000 over the next two years to sponsor the unit, which will be headed up by the Met’s Detective Constable Ian Elliot. This is the first time the UK insurance industry has sponsored a police unit.

Several plant manufacturers have also pledged donations to the unit, which is expected to increase the proportion of stolen vehicles that are recovered from 10% to 60%.

Neil Clutterbuck, secretary for the British Machinery Insurers Association (BMIA) said: “We have all made a commitment to work in partnership to sponsor the unit for two years, but the hope is it will become self-sustaining over time.”

After two years, Clutterbuck said the insurance companies would consider whether to continue sponsorship.

The funding will employ several detectives and cover the costs of investigating the theft and the 20 suspected organised crime groups believed to be involved in stealing construction plant and selling it overseas in areas such as Africa and the Middle East.

Investigators will now also have the resources to conduct patrols of UK ports from where stolen plant is shipped.

BMIA plans to share its experiences with the International Machinery Insurers Association so that the theft can be successfully tackled on a global scale.

Last April the construction equipment security and registration scheme (Cesar) was launched to provide plant with a registration system and identification number to help police and insurers identify and verify the vehicles.