LoJack report: Theft rings on rise

Contractors who own new equipment and work in warm areas need to keep an eye on their machinery or it may disappear, according to a report by vehicle tracking system maker LoJack.

As in the prior year, the study found that newer machines on the jobsite are common theft targets because of higher resale value, while year-round construction in warm weather areas gives thieves more opportunity. While these theft trends have stayed the same, there has been an increase in the rise of professional theft rings and chop shops.

“Professional thieves view construction theft as a highly lucrative business opportunity and we see this problem increasing year after year,” said Richard Riley, president and chief operating officer of LoJack. “Construction companies not only have to pay to replace their equipment, they also lose valuable revenue because of business downtime.”

In 2004, recoveries of LoJack-equipped construction equipment led police to locate 12 theft rings and seven chop shops, up from three theft rings and two chop shops in 2003.

Theft is on the rise in the construction industry because of the relative ease with which a person is able to steal machinery, LoJack said in its fourth annual report. Machines often have “open” cabs and thieves can access universal keys that start many pieces of equipment. And since a title and registration for equipment are not mandated, it is harder for equipment to be traced back to owners.

The study found that the types of equipment most frequently stolen are loaders, skid steers, generators, air compressors, dump trucks, welders, untethered trailers, light utility/work trucks and forklifts, in that order. These equipment types represented 81 percent of all construction equipment recoveries documented by LoJack in 2004.

“In terms of equipment most frequently stolen, it is very similar from 2003 to 2004,” said Laura Feng, who handles public relations for LoJack. “One change, however, was an increase in the incidence of dump truck recoveries.” Feng thinks this is because dump trucks are both high in value and demand.

According to a booklet LoJack produced called “Site Smarts,” there are several things a contractor can do to prevent theft:

· Paint or label all equipment with a visible product identification number
· Fence in all equipment when feasible
· Park machines close together
· Document the manufacturer, model number, PIN and date of purchase for each piece of equipment
· Light your jobsites through the night
· Use immobilizers like wheel locks, fuel shut-offs or ignition locks
· Ask local police for more frequent patrols of the jobsite