PAY ATTENTION: Tis the Season for Equipment Theft

Michigan contractor gets mower-jacked, and don’t think it couldn’t happen to you. How can you protect yourself?

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The spike in lawn equipment thefts over the past five years was largely blamed on the poor economy. Well, the economy has gotten better, but I got news for you: The criminal element in our society hasn’t gone anywhere.

A Michigan landscape company, Atlas Outdoor, was recently reminded of that. Around 5 one morning, surveillance cameras caught some guys monkeying around in the company’s storage yard. Shortly thereafter, the crew of crooks is seen driving off with one of Atlas Outdoor’s truck/trailer rigs. That trailer had four mowers and some handheld equipment on it. Collectively, the heist was worth roughly $100,000. Police called a few hours later, saying that they’d found the truck/trailer, which had both been set on fire, but the equipment was long gone. (See Original Story.)

How can you protect yourself?

One good idea is to have security cameras on your premises. But as you can see from this story, that’s not going to be a complete deterrent. There are lots of criminals out there. Some are smart and crafty. Others are dumb and clumsy. All have a lot of guts. If they want to try robbing you, they’re going to try.

Step two is making sure your equipment is secured with chains and padlocks. You can also buy different types of trailer accessories that are specifically designed for securing everything from mowers to trimmers to leaf blowers.

Step three: Don’t leave keys in or near your trucks and equipment when unattended.

Step four: Look into getting GPS tracking devices for your trucks and maybe even some equipment, at least your larger mowers. The benefits of GPS tracking go far beyond monitoring the location of a stolen piece of equipment. GPS can also help you improve routing and cut down on unbillable time; because crews know you can track their every move, they’ll be less likely to spend 20 minutes at the gas station each morning, etc.

Step five: Have good insurance that includes equipment theft.

Step six: Consider putting your own decals or some kind of identifying marker on your equipment. Make it noticeable and reasonably difficult to remove. The harder it will be for a criminal to turn around and sell your equipment, the less likely he will target your equipment.

Step seven: Register your equipment. Your dealer should do this for you when you buy it. Serial numbers can be tracked, so it’s important to get each given piece of equipment registered so it is associated with you.

A word of advice for would-be equipment thieves

Referring to step seven above, there’s not much you can do with a stolen piece of equipment. If you want to take it home for personal use, that’s one thing. But if you want to sell it on the black market, it’s not going to be as easy as you think. Smart pawn shop owners will want nothing to do with it because that’s the first place law enforcement is going to check. And don’t think online places like eBay and Craigslist aren’t being monitored too.

Additionally, you’ll probably never know if a given truck, mower or chainsaw has GPS tracking until those red and blue lights start flashing behind you.

Rather than trying to make a quick buck by stealing and selling a lawnmower, maybe you should learn how to operate one and get a job. But only the smart criminals are welcome to apply. The dumb ones can just stay home.