Thieves Pick Up on Building Boom

MTSince February, some 40 KamAZ trucks and 13 other pieces of heavy machinery have been stolen in Moscow.
Forget the luxury cars that cram Moscow's streets; thieves are after dump trucks, cranes and asphalt pavers to feed a booming construction sector.

Thieves have removed 40 KamAZ trucks and 13 cranes, cement mixers and other pieces of heavy machinery from the capital's construction sites in the last three months alone, local media reported last week.

"Just recently, an asphalt paver was carried away in broad daylight, right off the street," Igor Agapkin, head of the Moscow police's stolen-car investigation department, told Izvestia.

A construction boom in Moscow and large cities across the country is fueling demand for construction equipment that cannot be met by domestic supply. Long-term projects make leasing expensive, and police said finding stolen items was "very rare."

"Theft of a crane, for example, is a difficult undertaking. They have to get past police posts, get to the 'chop shop,' completely change the vehicle's appearance, license plates, and repaint," Agapkin said.

"Professionals of the highest order are involved."

Alexei Bakhromeyev, a spokesman for the city's criminal investigation department, told NTV television that the recent heists were connected to the time of year.

"This sort of equipment is particularly popular [among thieves] before the beginning of the construction season," Bakhromeyev said. "You can use it everywhere. It's not that hard to steal, and it is often worth as much as an expensive, imported car."

NTV reported that stolen construction equipment often ends up far from the spot where it was taken, often traveling as far as Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.