To Catch a Thief

Despite efforts by the Police, the Government and machinery manufacturers, plant theft still remains a huge problem and a major expense for many companies in the construction plant sector.

The average cost of a stolen machine is between £15,000 – £20,000, so if a piece of plant is stolen, this can prove extremely costly and inconvenient to replace. Not only that, but it can lead to loss of business and significantly increased insurance premiums. Thieves are attracted to plant because it is often significantly more valuable than cars or goods that can be stolen from private homes, yet it traditionally has very low recovery rates of less than 10%.

Plant can also be an easy target because owners and plant hirers often leave equipment unattended by the roadside or on unprotected sites such as depot yards overnight, over the weekend or during holiday periods. Globally, there is huge demand for used plant and equipment, and that brings with it the trade in stolen plant and equipment.

Criminal activity extends from opportunist criminals – who tend to target lower value items such as generators and hand tools which can prove easy to steal and sell on for cash – to serious and organised criminal activity. The latter targets higher value equipment such as excavators, telehandlers and dumpers, and has the resource and knowledge to sell the machinery, possibly export it and perhaps change its identity. During the theft, thieves may drive the plant away or load it directly into some form of transporting vehicle or onto a trailer. They may abandon the equipment overnight, or even for a few days, just in case the machine has been fitted with a tracking device that they have been unable to detect.

Following its theft, some stolen equipment may be exported. For larger machines, criminals may use containers, articulated trailers or lorries to transport the equipment through container ports such as Felixstowe or Gravesend. There are also a number of ferry ports across the UK, such as Holyhead, Hull and Plymouth, which criminals may use to exit the UK due to high levels of traffic. Plant equipment stolen from the UK is typically found in a number of countries, including Ireland and both Western and Eastern Europe, as well as further afield destinations, such as the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Once at its final destination, stolen equipment will be disposed of into the used equipment market in that country.

More businesses are now recognising the benefits of protecting their construction plant fleets with advanced tracking devices. At present, over £245 million worth of customer assets are protected with AMI Group systems, including several of the UK’s national plant hirers and construction companies. In recognition that thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, AMI Group has developed the smallest, most covert plant tracking devices in the industry, making them far more difficult for thieves to locate.

The use of AMI systems has led to the recovery of a great deal of other equipment not protected with an anti-theft system. In one recent example, the recovery of a stolen roller protected with a wireless, battery operated tracking device from AMI Group led West Yorkshire Police to a haul of other stolen plant and equipment worth £250,000.

The increasing need for equipment tracking and the busy nature of the plant sector has led AMI Group to develop a brand new app which enables customers to rapidly locate and manage plant machinery and vehicles whilst on the go. The AMI Nexis app, which is accessible from the App Store, is available for use by AMI customers who have an AMI equipment tracking device fitted to plant machinery, vehicles or other assets. Developed extensively by AMI’s internal developers, the app is already being used by the majority of AMI Group customers.

AMI Group Operations Director Peter Stockton said: “The app is essentially intended to be a mobile version of our AMI Nexis web-based software portal for use by customers when they are on the go. It has been very well received by our customer base and makes it easier than ever before to track equipment in the event that it has been stolen, or to set up a range of alerts. Customers don’t need to wait until they are at a computer to access a wide range of functionality – they immediately have the information at their fingertips from their mobile phone or other mobile device.”

The AMI Nexis app gives organisations control and visibility of their plant or vehicle fleets. Using the app, AMI customers can track equipment using Google mapping, immobilise equipment and set up a series of alerts via e-mail or text. Geofence alerts can also be set up within seconds, so if equipment moves outside a given area, the customer is immediately alerted. The app is intended to be highly user friendly and is available to supplement the company’s AMI Nexis web-based software portal.

AMI Group’s state-of-the-art tracking devices are covertly installed on plant machinery such as excavators, generators and compressors to provide the ultimate in anti-theft protection. Developed using advanced GPS (Global Positioning System), GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), RF (Radio Frequency) and battery powered technology, customers can logon to the AMI Nexis web-based portal to establish the destination of plant equipment in the event of it being stolen. Customers can also use the system as a total fleet management solution to help reduce their fuel costs, reduce their carbon footprint or enhance productivity – and they can even remotely immobilise equipment from their mobile phone.

The company’s tracking devices utilise a private APN system which detects the strongest network signal available and sends its data using the best available network. This ensures optimal coverage and helps to eliminate black spots and loss of coverage. In situations where GPS is unavailable, the device relays GSM cell site positions and the internal RF beacon can be activated to assist in locating stolen assets.