The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) said raids on vehicles and sites have spiked rapidly in the last two weeks.
David Smith, chairman 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.”
Nick Mayell, Datatag’s CESAR Police training and liaison officer said: “The Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ has meant that it’s currently ‘open season’ for criminal gangs who target construction plant.
“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 (Combined Industries Theft Solutions) 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 the machinery should be placed within containers and the containers blocked in by placing large concrete blocks or vehicles in front of them.”
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).
But the April launch has now been postponed until 1 st October 2020.
Rob Oliver, chief executive CEA said: “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.”