Crime ring costs industry over £400m a year

In an unprecedented move, insurers are offering to fund a new Metropolitan police unit that would target a massive organised crime ring that costs the industry over £400m a year in plant theft.

The plan, spearheaded by Allianz Insurance and supported by other insurers, is under consideration by the Metropolitan Police’s stolen vehicle unit.

The move would see two officers dedicated entirely to gathering intelligence and fighting construction plant theft.

Ian Nichol, underwriting manager of engineering at Allianz, said the hope is to have the unit operating well in advance of the 2012 London Olympics, where insurers fear the theft of plant and equipment could rocket.

He said: “We have committed to funding the unit for two years and other insurance companies have offered support such as HSB Horton’s.

“We are hoping more will come on board.”

The officers would amass intelligence involving more than 20 suspected organised crime groups believed to be involved in stealing and selling plant and equipment overseas, to places such as Africa and the Middle East.

They could also conduct regular patrols of the UK ports from where the stolen plant is shipped.

A Metroplotan police spokeswoman was not the first time the private sector has sponsored a police unit.

The banking industry currently sponsors a credit card fraud unit for the Met and the national e-crime unit is currently seeking sponsorship.

Shulver said: “We want to be able to afford specialty services but we have to work within our budget.

“In some cases, we must seek sponsorship.”

The police unit is the insurance industry’s latest step in trying to quash plant theft which has tentacles reaching beyond just economic impact.

It is believed the proceeds of the organised crime operation could be used for more violent purposes which authorities suspect could include terrorist activity.

In April, the construction equipment security and registration scheme (Cesar) went live. It uses a registration system and a plant identification number that could be affixed to vehicles allowing for identification and verification by police and insurers.

In the run-up to the London games, the police are considering having all plant going in and out of the restricted Olympic construction sites fitted with the registration tags.

JCB, the world’s third-largest manufacturer of construction equipment, has also become involved.

It has recently announced that in line with Cesar it will begin fitting the registration tags to all new machines.

As an incentive, Allianz has announced that it will give up to a 20% discount to customers registering any item with Cesar.