With the winter season upon us, investigators in the General Investigation Section (GIS) of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division are providing theft prevention tips to owners of snow clearing machines and equipment.
Last year, there were a number of thefts of snow clearing equipment, primarily truck-mounted snowplows and salt spreaders, from businesses and residences all over the region. Most of the thefts occurred during the overnight hours, and in some cases the machines were also stolen and later recovered minus the snow clearing equipment. These machines were typically older trucks (pre 2007), which tend to be targeted because they don’t have microchipped keys. In response to the thefts, GIS launched a month-long operation that resulted in the arrest of five people and the recovery of almost $300,000 worth of stolen snow clearing equipment and vehicles. These cases are still before the courts.
When we have winters like we had last year where there are number of large storms, there is a high demand for snow clearing equipment. This drives thefts for a number of reasons: more machines are left out in the open, unsecured; machines being loaded or operated at late hours aren’t considered suspicious to the general public; and equipment may be stolen to fulfill the demand for plowing and snow removal. Here are some tips on how to protect your snow clearing equipment from thieves:
- Don’t leave machines in the open – work with property managers to determine an area on the site where machines can be secured or parked where video surveillance can monitor them. Ensure that video surveillance equipment is in working order and that footage can be made available for police.
- Secure/disable machines that must be left in the open – install a steering wheel lock bar, a remote kill switch that disables the battery and tailgate locks. Bolt down salt spreaders and use additional chains and lock to secure plows and spreaders. Also, remove relays, battery cables, etc. to make operating a machine more difficult for a thief.
- Individualize your equipment – “Tattoo” your equipment by etching numbers, etc. or welding/adding pieces that are difficult to remove. Make it unique to you or your business.
- Maintain control of keys – often trucks belonging to businesses have many keys for the same truck, providing an opportunity for the machine to be stolen. Also, don’t hide keys in obvious places, such as in the ashtray, gas cap or under floor mats or seats. Be aware that insurance companies may request that all three keys be produced by the driver in the event of a theft claim.
- Add signage – put signs on machines warning that they are under video surveillance and monitored by GPS systems.
- Protect attachments – park machines with plows and snow blowers against a curb or wall to make removal more difficult. Tilt the plows forward to the ground (if it doesn’t damage the contact edge). Park machines blade to blade.
- Monitor equipment – check up on machines regularly to be sure they are accounted for. Watch for vandalism, as it could be a warning that your machines are being targeted.
- Be prepared – be sure your registration is current and all machines are recorded accurately. Update your emergency contact information if numbers or personnel have changed. Have current photos of machines.
- Report thefts immediately – make a police report before driving around the neighborhood looking for a missing machine or equipment. The sooner we have the information, the better the odds of us tracking them down.
- Be observant – If you or your crews observe equipment in your area that seems out of place or suspicious, contact police. Also, be wary when approached by individuals looking to sell you snow clearing equipment at a low cost; it could be stolen.