Skid steers, backhoes top 2003 list of stolen equipment

Skid steers, backhoes and compact utility tractors were the most stolen pieces of equipment in 2003, according to a report from the National Equipment Register.

The report also found that skid steers and backhoes were among the most commonly recovered equipment after a theft. However, only 10 to 15 percent of all stolen equipment is found and returned to the owner.

“Skid steers and backhoes are the most often stolen because they are valuable and easily transported,” said NER President David Shillingford. “Larger equipment is very valuable, but is harder to steal because of its size. Hand tools, in contrast, are easy to steal but not worth as much.”

If you live in Texas or North Carolina, there is a high chance that you might have equipment stolen at one time or another. Texas has more equipment theft than any other state, followed by North Carolina, Florida, California and Georgia. The top five states account for approximately 33 percent of all equipment thefts. Those states have warm climates and a high volume of construction. According to the report, the higher concentration of equipment a state has, the likelier the state is to attract thieves or professional theft rings.

Areas close to state borders have an even higher occurrence of theft. Theft rings often move stolen equipment into a neighboring state, but not usually beyond the general area. This could be an explanation for the states that recover the most stolen equipment — California, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. The top five states listed for equipment recovery account for 43 percent of all recovery locations in the United States.

Shillingford said state law enforcement agencies do as much as they can to recover equipment, but they don’t have much time or money to focus on equipment theft because they are trying to solve violent crimes and protect homeland security while restricted with small budgets. The fact that most officers don’t know much about construction equipment can also hamper a theft investigation.

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Because equipment is most often in use on jobsites, it is not surprising that nearly 50 percent of all thefts occur on land not owned by the equipment owner. However, nearly 35 percent of equipment was stolen while it was in storage.

According to NER, the total value of equipment stolen each year ranges between $300 million and $1 billion. What should owners do to help prevent the theft of their equipment? Shillingford suggests securing equipment as much as sensibly possible, but most importantly, to keep a current record of the serial numbers on each piece of equipment.

“There are limits to what you can do as far as securing equipment, and it is impossible to secure it completely,” Shillingford said. “You have to do what is sensible in preventing theft, but it is most important that when something is stolen, the owner reports the theft quickly, and reports the serial numbers and equipment details.”

To help owners keep a running record of the serial numbers on their equipment, NER runs a database where, for a small annual fee, owners can store serial numbers for their entire fleet. The database is then linked to the national stolen equipment database, which is searched by law enforcement officers and used equipment buyers. Registered owners also get a decal warning thieves the equipment is registered with NER to place on their equipment and premises.

To find out more about registering equipment with NER, or to read a full version of the report, click on the links to the right.