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How to Cut Your Chances of Becoming a Victim of Equipment Theft

Posted by Ryan Cox on Feb 15, 2022

You may think equipment theft will never happen to you, but data says differently. The most recent National Equipment Register equipment theft report indicates that equipment theft averages out to $400 million per year. The cost only covers the price of the stolen equipment. It does not factor in the theft of tools, building materials, or damages to the premises during the theft.

Moreover, the data doesn’t incorporate the cost of lost workdays due to necessity of replacing the stolen equipment with a rental, buying a new one, or bringing in a backup from another location. NER makes it clear its report is based on reported thefts they know about. Many go unreported.

The most recent articles on NER’s news page regarding equipment theft trends show a five-year rise in incidents reported especially during the holidays. The most targeted location types are worksites, dealerships, and storage facilities. The top target equipment types change from holiday to holiday, but the following show up most frequently:

  • Skid steer
  • Mower
  • Tractor (wheeled)
  • Utility cart / vehicle

The National Equipment Register explains that equipment theft patterns reflect the overall economy. As North America makes progress toward some normalcy, equipment demand continues to climb. The scarcity of equipment has elevated the demand for it, which also follows with an increase in equipment theft.

You may think this won’t happen to your business. If you think this way, consider the implications if it ever happens. The equipment scarcity could put your business at a greater risk for huge losses if you cannot replace your stolen equipment. Hence, NER advises all industries especially dealerships, storage facilities, and construction sites to be on guard for theft.

Equipment Theft Warning Signs

How do thieves decide what to steal? They look for two things: value and mobility. Large excavators, for instance, sell for a lot of money. However, they’re hard to move. Thus, they fail the mobility test. That’s why wheeled machines like mowers, skid steers, and tractors are often pilfered.

Why is equipment theft a big problem? Here are the top reasons for equipment theft:

  • Weak site and equipment security
  • Light penalties for convictions
  • High chance of being able to sell
  • Low likelihood of detection and arrest
  • Price of the equipment

NER explains that taking proactive steps can help reduce equipment crimes. Little things can make a difference in deterring equipment theft.

Here are the warning signs to watch for regarding equipment theft especially over the holidays:

  • Parked trucks, such as box vans, U-Hauls, and enclosed hauler-type trailers that do not belong to the company.
  • Vehicles parked in parking lots and vacant lots near businesses.
  • Opened gates at facilities that are clearly shut down.
  • Evidence of early morning or late-night activity inside a construction site, yard, farm, or store over the holidays.

The equipment theft report from NER states that locations with the highest amount of equipment tend to have the most thefts. These tend to occur in areas with higher construction and agriculture activity.

Regardless, based on the many news stories, no one can consider their business as safer than other locations. In West Virginia, WYMT reports on a story in which the suspect pleaded guilty to stealing from a coal mine. Twin Tiers covers a story in New York where a compact tractor and lawnmower were stolen from an equipment dealership. The approximate value was $35k.

Even a mission lost $30,000 worth of lawn care equipment in Flint, Michigan, according to WJRT. Thieves don’t care if a place is a nonprofit, a faith-based organization, or a business. They go to a place with weaker security and equipment.

NER’s report divides the locations into three categories: on other premises, insured’s premises, and in-transit. Obviously, in-transit refers to the process of transporting the equipment from one location to another. One-third of the thefts happen on the insured’s premises. A little more than half of the thefts are on “other premises” like construction sites.

Out of the more than 11,000 equipment theft reports, only one-fifth were recovered. The average estimated value of the stolen equipment is almost $30k. Add the equipment shortage to the equation and it could hurt business if it doesn’t bolster its security. NER does confirm that most thefts occur on sites with little or no security.

Tips to Prevent Equipment Theft

No matter how big your property or perimeter is, you can strengthen your site security when you follow these tips. Even if you have a lot of assets — vehicles at a dealership and large equipment on a construction site, for instance — that cannot be locked up inside.

1. Add identifiable information and a GPS tracker in equipment

Insert covert GPS trackers in your large equipment, vehicles, trailers, and cargo. They can help you keep track of where all your assets are located. It’s not just for theft. It can also help with misplacements.

Beware that some organized crime gangs and sophisticated thieves may have GPS jammers to prevent the GPS from working. That’s why it’s important to also stamp or engrave identifying information on the equipment. Don’t slap a label on it. Thieves can remove it.

2. Use asset management tracking system

Since you’re adding identifying information to your equipment, you need a way to keep track of this data. With an asset management tracking system, you can add more details about the equipment including photos.

When something is stolen, you’ll have all the information you need to report the stolen item to the police, National Insurance Crime Bureau, and any other organization that needs this information. An asset tracking system can also let you know when it’s time for your asset to undergo maintenance to extend its life.

3. Install proper lighting

Having the right kind of lighting and in the right location can lower your risk for theft. Without lighting, thieves will be more tempted to steal from your property because it will be harder to detect them. There is an art and science to lighting, so it’s strongly recommended that your company works with a security consultant to create an optimal lighting solution. Equally important, check the lighting regularly to ensure it’s functioning.

4. Put up fencing

Install a fence around the property and try to create a single point. That way you can monitor everyone who enters your property. You’ll be able to check everyone’s credentials and gain greater control over managing deliveries.

Yes, intruders can climb or cut fences. You can put up another barrier by using barbed wiring. The more layers you add to security, the less likely crooks will choose your business as the site of their next theft. Just as you want to check your lighting, you also want to regularly check your fencing to ensure it’s free of tampering.

5. Train employees on security practices

All new employees should undergo training on your security practices. All it takes is for one employee mistake to create a gap in your security. It’s also critical to ensure they receive security training on a regular basis. It can be part of your safety program.

The training would cover how to shut down equipment for the night. For instance, you might have workers move large equipment to a specific area on the site that has bright lighting.

6. Implement remote video surveillance

You have a variety of options with remote video surveillance. If your cameras can only see in the daytime and show dark footage in low lighting, it won’t do you much good. One of the key things you want to consider is that everything on camera is identifiable whether it’s daylight or nighttime. Not all security cameras have the power to make out faces, license plates, and vehicle information.

Unlike traditional security systems, a monitored video surveillance system takes a proactive approach to site security and deterring equipment theft. It can help prevent crime and damage before it happens. A trained monitoring operator with help from video analytics watches for suspicious activity in real-time.

As soon as they spot a problem, the operator can send an audio warning to the intruders over on-site speakers. The operator is not located on your site. They’re monitoring your property from a remote location. If a suspect does not leave after the warning, the monitoring operator can call law enforcement and give them a report while tracking the suspect.

Remote video surveillance saves the recordings. If someone reports a problem or tries to make a liability claim, trained analysts can quickly search through hours of footage to locate the activity in question. Liability claims are hard cases to win and video surveillance could help guarantee you have the proof you need to make your case and protect your business.

Remote video surveillance not only helps deter crime, but it also can deliver a quick ROI because it can help your business in other ways. The technology can catch safety hazards, bottlenecks, and breakdowns in processes.

The Bottom Line

Implementing these six things will help reduce your risk for equipment theft and optimize your security investment. Company management will gain peace of mind knowing video analytics and someone are watching over the entire property and everything is saved to recordings.

Stealth can customize a security system to meet your company’s requirements and budget. To learn more, check out this free guide on Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals or contact us.