Could it be that catastrophe modeling may soon have to deal with factors such as “construction theft” when calculating rebuilding costs in the wake of natural disasters? According to A.M. Best, the widespread rebuilding effort along the U.S. Gulf coast in Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama “is feeding a variety of criminal activity, including an already-burgeoning business in construction theft.” The ratings agency’s news service says the annual tally of stolen construction equipment “could hit a new high this year as more contractors move into the Gulf region to participate in ongoing reconstruction work.” One organization that tracks equipment thefts is reported as noticing an increase in the amount of equipment reported stolen in certain Gulf and neighboring states since hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita struck the region last year. Not only is construction equipment being stolen from the hurricane-damaged areas, A.M. Best reports, it is also being taken from elsewhere and being transported to those areas. “Pieces of equipment are showing up over there that were simply taken from other places,” Charles Comiskey, chairman of the construction practice group of RiskProNet International, a network of independent insurance brokers in the United States and Canada, is quoted as saying. Comiskey told A.M. Best the cost of insuring construction equipment has increased because of actual loss or damage resulting from the hurricanes, as well as the increase in thefts. In its 2005 Equipment Theft Report, the National Equipment Register said the number of stolen pieces of equipment has increased 22% in the Gulf region and surrounding states since 2004. It also noticed that equipment thefts spiked in neighboring Gulf states immediately after a hurricane struck; as more equipment moved into the storm-damaged areas, thefts increased in those areas too. The report says more than 60% of the equipment reported stolen in these areas include skid steer loaders, backhoes and small- to medium-sized tractors.