Construction equipment thefts in the Gulf States and surrounding areas rose dramatically after Hurricane Katrina and were further fuelled by Hurricanes Rita and Wilma. This is the finding in a report recently released by the National Equipment Register (NER), a national database of equipment theft and ownership used by law enforcement to identify stolen equipment. The number of thefts reported to NER from the time Katrina hit to the end of December was up 22% from the same period in 2004.
The report also explores trends related to the theft of rental equipment, fraud and the resale of flood-damaged equipment. Advice is given as to how best to reduce the risk of theft and increase the chances of recovering stolen equipment.
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina we started to see a trend of greater theft in and around the Gulf States and have been tracking this closely,” NER's president, David Shillingford, explained. “Now that so much equipment is in the areas of reconstruction, we are concerned that theft will continue to rise. This report is a way of raising awareness and suggesting solutions."
It is not all bad news. The report includes a case study in which an alert buyer in Mississippi who was being offered equipment below market price called NER to check if the equipment was stolen. It was and this led to an investigation and the recovery of $350,000 of equipment and two arrests. The sellers had been posing as having links to FEMA.
The full report is immediately available to law enforcement, NER member insurers, the media and equipment owners and will be posted on the NER website later in the year.