Tackling plant and machinery theft

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PC Mike Dawber of the Knutsford Rural NPU division of the Cheshire Constabulary, outlines the successes of tackling plant and machinery theft throughout the area by focussing resources through their Ruralwatch scheme…

It is estimated that millions of UK pounds worth of plant machinery is stolen nationally every year. The effects of plant equipment theft go beyond the replacement of stolen equipment, as the loss of equipment can affect victims’ day-to-day work schedules. Police and advisory groups representing all interests in the plant industry are working to tackle the problem of plant thefts. Cheshire Police have worked hard to tackle the problem as it is estimated that at least £1m of equipment and machinery is stolen nationally each week. In order to address the problem, Cheshire Police have worked in partnership with PANIU (Plant And Agricultural National Intelligence Unit), NaVCIS (National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service) and the CESAR scheme (Plant Machinery identification scheme) to prevent and detect these thefts, much of which is believed to be shipped abroad.

Cheshire Police: Operation Gradual

Between April and November 2010 there were 94 incidents relating to the theft of plant and agricultural machinery across Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Knutsford and Alderley Edge. These incidents were reported by members of the public to Cheshire Police who held little or no intelligence as to who could be responsible.

The spike in these offences occurred predominately in Knutsford where a Ruralwatch scheme was already in operation. However, community cohesion was suffering as the local farmers and rural community believed that the police were disinterested in these offences – and so Operation Gradual commenced.

Operation Gradual involved a cold case review of 150 thefts of plant and agricultural machinery committed between 2008 and December 2010. This included the re-examination of CCTV of farm crime and machinery thefts and the comparison of forensic marks and fingerprints left at the various crime scenes. From the review of these machinery thefts, it was established that all the offences had been investigated in isolation by well-meaning officers.

The review concluded that one organised crime group (OCG) based in Wythenshawe, Manchester could be attributed to more than 60 of these high value offences. A team of six officers including detectives and constables were put together in February 2012 to deal with the OCG as a case of “conspiracy to steal plant and agricultural machinery from Cheshire”.

The arrests of the offenders commenced in March 2012. As a result, 120 substantive offences of theft of plant and agricultural machinery were detected.

Victim compliance / victim debrief

To improve community cohesion, the 350 members of the Knutsford Ruralwatch scheme were sent regular updates when the operation allowed, updating them of key events which would include arrests, recoveries of plant and agricultural machinery, charges and court results.

At the conclusion of the Operation, the 120 victims of these offences were invited by letter to a “Victim de-brief” – 80 people were in attendance. The de-brief was held at Knutsford Civic Centre with victims, ruralwatch members, the NFU and the press all present. At the de-brief, myself and DC Healy gave a presentation to the assembled audience informing them of the operation and the result. This de-brief was organised to improve police confidence from the rural and farming community.

Plant Machinery Theft Success (Op Gradual)

• Combined prison sentences of 14 years and 9 months were secured;

• Proceeds of Crime Confiscation Orders for £1,421,982 secured;

• Stolen property recovered by police through the operation valued in excess of £500,000;

• The Operation Gradual Team received Chief Superintendent’s commendations in lieu of this work;

• The NFU Mutual concluded that Rural Crime in the area reduced by more than 40%;

• More importantly the offences virtually stopped overnight.

Crime Prevention

The CESAR scheme is the Home Office and ACPO approved – security marking / crime prevention scheme for plant and agricultural machinery.

A machine registered with CESAR is fitted with a number of tamper-evident registration stickers and with its own unique identification and registration number. Along with this, a number of radio-frequency identification (RFID) transponders are hidden throughout the machine. There are also patches of forensic liquid DNA painted on to the machine in a number of locations. When registered with CESAR, a machine is also placed on the Datatag secure database which gives the police and other official agencies access to the registration information around the clock to aid identification and recovery.

Plant and agricultural machinery with CESAR technology fitted to them receive reductions on insurance premiums as it is an effective deterrent to criminals. NFU Mutual offer reductions of between 12.5 % and 27.5% and Zurich offer up to a 25% reduction. Therefore, it may be worthwhile for farmers and construction companies to seek advice from their insurer due to the incentives on offer.

For further information please visit: http://www.cesarscheme.org/Downloads/cesar_brochure_uk.pdf

Ruralwatch schemes

Cheshire Police also run a Ruralwatch scheme which is a network of “eyes and ears” in rural areas of Cheshire to prevent and detect rural crime, farm crime and plant and agricultural machinery thefts.

The benefits of joining a Ruralwatch scheme are:

• Reduces opportunities for crime and vandalism;

• Strengthens community spirit so everyone plays a part in protecting their property;

• Improves two way communication between farmers, the rural community and the Police;

• Reduces the fear of crime.

For further information about CESAR, please view this YouTube video:

PC4267 Mike Dawber

Stolen Vehicle Examiner

Cheshire Constabulary

public.contact@cheshire.pnn.police.uk

www.cheshire.police.uk

www.twitter.com/cheshirepolice

www.twitter.com/KnutsfordNPU

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