Theft of agricultural and construction equipment rose sharply in 2005, with thieves taking equipment worth £43m, up in value by 13% on 2004, according to the National Plant and Equipment Register.
In total 4324 vehicles were taken during 2005, a 20% rise on the previous year.
It brings the total value of machinery stolen since 2000 to £185m.
Home Office statistics show equipment theft in the UK running at £1m a week.
The equipment register says the plant and equipment industry is like the “Wild West”.
“There appears little regulation, too much cash in hand, and low levels of policing both by law enforcement or the industries involved,” said the register’s 2006 annual report.
Equipment theft is now a big business, with demand beyond the UK. Ireland, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa are identified as main destinations for stolen equipment.
But delay in reporting a theft (45 days on average), highly organised crime gangs and the failure of many manufacturers to follow Home Office guidelines of registering new and used equipment sales with the equipment register makes recovering stolen tackle increasingly difficult.
Furthermore, the report reckons that equipment theft spans all levels of criminal activity from the opportunist to the serious [and] organised crime gang to terrorists who may use equipment as cover for weapons and explosives.
Excavators are the most stolen piece of machinery and there is a direct correlation between theft of excavators and trailers, particularly in the mini-excavator class.
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