Construction equipment thefts in the Gulf States and surrounding areas rose dramatically following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, according to the National Equipment Register.

The New York-based national database of equipment theft and ownership reported that thefts from the time Katrina hit at the beginning of September to the end of December were up 22 percent from the same period in 2004.

NER president David Shillingford said that with reconstruction underway, equipment theft will remain a problem this year.

“But it is not all bad news,” Mr. Shillingford said. The report also included a case study in which an alert buyer in Mississippi who was being offered a Caterpillar D-5-LGP bulldozer below market value called the NER to see if the equipment was stolen.

That query led to an investigation, recovery of $350,000 of equipment and two arrests. The sellers had posed as having links to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.