Partnership helps police find owners of stolen skid steers

A partnership between an equipment registry service and an organization that investigates insurance crimes helped Pennsylvania police find the owners of more than 30 stolen skid steers they found on a small farm.

The Pennsylvania State Police and the National Insurance Crime Bureau identified nearly two thirds of the units as stolen by matching the machines’ product identification numbers to theft reports on national police and insurance computers. For assistance in identifying the remaining pieces, NICB agents accessed the National Equipment Register’s databases through a partnership the two groups initiated earlier this year.

Investigators found PIN numbers on seven machines, but no matching theft reports. NER identified the owners of these items from its databases of more than 25,000 loss reports and 8 million ownership records. When the owners or insurers were contacted they confirmed the machines had been stolen. A number of the thefts had been reported incorrectly, with one owner reporting a valid PIN that belonged to a different piece of equipment in his fleet.

The thieves added new model decals to one machine to match the model type of the fraudulent numbers they had applied to the peice. Two items had PIN plates still attached, but when NER contacted the owners they confirmed the equipment had not been stolen – only the machines’ PIN plates were missing. Neither owner had noticed the disappearance of the plates. Investigators used secondary numbers to identify the equipment.

One piece had all visible and most hidden numbers removed so NER and NICB worked with the manufacturer to cross-reference component numbers to identify the piece.

The case got started in July when an equipment buyer in Lancaster County, Penn., contacted law enforcement after being approached with prices “too good to be true.” The Pennsylvania State Police found the skid steers, which were valued at more than $100,000.

“The case underlines the need for owners to report losses swiftly and accurately to law enforcement