Friday, August 7, 1998 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Millennium-bug compliant computers 'stolen to order'
Millennium-compliant machines are a prime target for thieves
Thefts of millennium-compliant computer hardware is on the increase in Britain's technology heartland as organised gangs recognise the marketability of such machines.
A report by Thames Valley Police indicates that criminals are clued up to the value of computers that have been upgraded and that such hardware is being stolen to order.
The Thames Valley is known as the UK's Silicon Valley because of its high concentration of computer companies. The loss of computer hardware cost businesses in the region around £9.8m in 1996.
It is feared that many computers will not recognise the change in date from 1999 to 2000 and a campaign group has been set up by the government to educate business about the so-called millennium bug.
A spokeswoman for the group, Action 2000, said: "Although this type of report does concern us we are really dealing with a wider issue of the bug and the greater implications."
'Supply and demand'
Chief Inspector of Thames Valley Police, Barry Keane said: "The criminals are businessmen and they comply to the same laws of supply and demand.
"Obviously computers that have been updated are more marketable, and criminals are aware of that."
He advised companies to take simple preventative measures such as disposing of empty boxes carefully when new computers are installed so that thieves do not see them and spot an opportunity.
The force has also set up a business protection scheme in conjunction with companies in the area.
It has been operating a pager network to keep companies in the area up-to-date with suspicious activity or incidents.