Construction equipment theft is a real threat – the annual estimates of the cost of equipment theft vary from about $300 million to $1 billion (according to the most recent data available from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the National Equipment Register). Heavy machinery is often targeted because of its high value, and the fact that components can be broken down and sold as parts. The NICB states that in this industry, “Theft accounts for the highest number of losses when compared to other risks.”
However, the threat of construction equipment theft can be drastically reduced if contractors implement the proper protocols and procedures. Construction Fleet Managers or Risk & Safety Managers can take many steps to mitigate the risk of theft, from immobilizing large equipment to installing telematics devices that can track the location and use of machinery. Fleet owners can also help protect the company’s assets (and ultimately, the business’ bottom line) by staying knowledgeable about current theft methods. This month, we’re sharing two recoveries that highlight some of the top theft trends in the industry today.
LoJack Assists Miami-Dade Police Department in Recovering Equipment Worth More Than 80K
A thief in Florida recently stole a 2014 Caterpillar 262-D skid steer loader by using a “common key” to access the Caterpillar equipment. The suspect drove the equipment out through the building’s rear doors, and then down a ramp into a waiting vehicle. Later in the day, while on routine patrol, a Miami-Dade Police Department officer picked up the silent LoJack signal on their on-board LoJack Police Tracking Computer (PTC). The officer began tracking the stolen vehicle, and along with backup, located the stolen skid steer loader and a stolen truck. The total value of this recovery was $80,499.
Many manufacturers of construction equipment provide “common keys” which work with multiple pieces of equipment. That is not a new fact but rather a way of life since the inception. If a thief has one key, it can serve as a master key and pose a serious threat to valuable machines. To combat this theft method, contractors should conduct thorough background checks on machine operators when hiring and limit the number of “common keys” in action across the jobsite. Managers should also stay aware at all times, and minimize the risk of theft by taking precautions like locking equipment up securely after hours, providing fencing to the site and hiring a security guard. Additional precautions include lining up equipment (making it more difficult to maneuver) and adopting technology like telematics for prevention and LoJack for recovery.
LoJack and Oregon Law Enforcement Recover Takeuchi Excavator Stolen over the Weekend
An excavating company near Canby, Oregon was recently the victim of a commercial burglary over a weekend. Thieves targeted a Takeuchi excavator during off-hours, when the equipment was not in use. In addition to the Takeuchi excavator, the criminals took a 2000 Ford F450 utility truck, 2007 Load Trail flatbed trailer and a 2011 Bobcat E45 excavator. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office verified the report and entered the vehicle information into state and federal crime computer systems. Soon after, a Mount Angel Police sergeant picked up the silent signal from the LoJack tracker. Police found the equipment on a rural property in Marion County, where they recovered all the equipment with no apparent damage.
This recovery illustrates an all-too-common trend wherein equipment thieves target tools and machinery during off-hours, typically late at night or on weekends. In terms of timing, it’s the perfect opportunity, given that machines are not in use, not being watched and may not be fully secured. Contractors can mitigate this threat by properly securing the job site. A number of steps can be taken in this regard, including using a security guard to monitor sites and equipment on weekends and implementing protocols that require employees to lock all equipment away when not in use. Other preventative measures include adding better lighting, security cameras and perimeter fencing. It’s a best practice to invest in layers of protection, including telematics devices with geofencing technology that can detect when a piece of equipment is being moved from its proper place, as well as covert theft recovery devices which can help police locate stolen equipment quickly.
In the field, LoJack’s law enforcement liaisons have witnessed many construction equipment thieves using the methods above, including disgruntled employees and opportunists looking to make fast cash by targeting unused equipment during off-hours or using universal keys. Don’t be an easy target – stay informed about current theft trends, and take the necessary steps to protect valuable assets. We hope you never have to use your LoJack system, but in the case that you do… we will get your equipment right back on the job!
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 National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the National Equipment Register, “2014 Theft Report” (pg. 12), https://www.nicb.org/File%20Library/Public%20Affairs/NICB-NER2014-HE_FINAL.pdf
 National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the National Equipment Register, “2014 Theft Report” (pg. 7), https://www.nicb.org/File%20Library/Public%20Affairs/NICB-NER2014-HE_FINAL.pdf
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