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Plant theft unit set up | BUILDING MAGAZINE

Plant theft unit set up

A new privately-funded police unit has been set up to combat plant theft.

The Opal national intelligence unit has set up a unit called ACE – Agricultural & Construction Equipment – funded by equipment manufacturers and insurance companies.

This comes two years after the collapse of the Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU), which was folded because the police were longer able to fund it.

Opal was established in April 2019 and is based at West Mercia Police Headquarters, under the leadership of DCC Amanda Blakeman, the national policing lead for serious organised acquisitive crime (SOAC). It has a team of 10 that liaises with police forces and industry partners nationwide to combat organised theft.

Its new ACE unit will work to reduce the theft of stolen construction and farm machinery and recover stolen equipment, both nationally and internationally.

Officers from ACE will work to develop, collate and co-ordinate intelligence to identify and disrupt organised criminality.

The unit is funded by donations from the Construction Equipment Association, the Agricultural Engineers Association and insurance companies Allianz, Aviva, Axa, HSB Engineering Insurance, NFU Mutual and QBE.

Opal National Intelligence Unit (SOAC) Detective Inspector Ernie Locke, explained: “ACE sit under the Opal umbrella and benefits from a dedicated intelligence team. By working smarter and in partnership with law enforcement agencies, government agencies, buiness and industry also, academia it will deliver a whole system approach in tackling agriculture and construction equipment theft”.

The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) has spent the past couple of years working on a successor to PANIU, which was hosted by the Metropolitan Police Service. PANIU was set upin 2008 and over 10 years recovered 824 machines to the aggregate value of more than £17m. Stastics for its final year of operation, 2018, show that 650 mini excavators were stolen that year, 463 site dumpers, 236 tractors, 229 rollers and 137 telehandlers.

Rob Oliver, CEA chief executive welcomed the launch of the new unit; “Stakeholders through the industry have been keenly awaiting this initiative to come to fruition, so it is great that it is now in operation with the partnership of OPAL. We will be engaging with companies and organisations, such as CITS (Combined Industry Theft Solutions) to support the work of ACE in what is an evolving criminal threat”.

Opal Ace can be contacted at opal@westmercia.pnn.police.uk