Construction Equipment Theft Recoveries Rise Again in ’03

Fri October 08, 2004 - National Edition

LoJack Corporation recently announced the results of its third annual Construction Equipment Theft Report, which provides information on the growing problem of equipment theft that costs construction companies up to $1 billion per year in lost assets, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The study, which analyzed LoJack stolen vehicle recovery reports for the calendar year 2003, reported more than $9 million in construction equipment assets were stolen and recovered by LoJack, up 15 percent from 2002.

“Our most recent theft study reveals that construction equipment theft continues to be a growing, costly problem,” said Joseph F. Abely, LoJack Corporation’s president and COO. “The overwhelming majority of construction companies have suffered from equipment theft; however, by taking simple, cost-effective precautions, companies can protect themselves from the cost of stolen equipment and, more importantly, the larger price of lost business due to downtime.”

Theft Rings

Construction equipment theft spells big business for professional thieves and LoJack’s study underscored the continuing problem of construction equipment theft rings. Theft rings re-sell stolen equipment to unsuspecting contractors or chop the equipment into pieces for resale. The study reported that the recoveries of more than 15 percent of LoJack-equipped construction equipment led police to locate and recover additional stolen equipment worth nearly $3 million that was present in theft rings and chop shops.

The study also revealed that the newer equipment on the job site is the most common theft target. The types of equipment most frequency stolen are (in order): loaders, skid steers, generators, air compressors and welders.

These equipment types represented 81 percent of all construction equipment recoveries documented by LoJack last year. More than 80 percent of the equipment stolen and recovered was five years old or less.

Other equipment targeted by thieves in 2003 included forklifts, taxis, tractors, excavator, light towers, vans, trenchers, stucco mixers, golf carts, message boards and dozers.

The LoJack report found that rates of construction equipment theft and recovery were highest in those states where rapid growth had fueled more construction projects.

Additionally, states with warmer weather have more construction year-round, translating into more opportunities for thieves. California was the most active area with 21 percent; Florida and Texas were next with 19 percent each; and Arizona was fourth with 10 percent.

According to the study, the majority of thefts occurred on the weekends, when construction sites are left unguarded. Approximately one third of thefts are reported and recovered on Mondays when workers arrive on the site and discover their equipment has been stolen.

The value of rapid recovery of stolen construction equipment also was revealed in the report. Typically, the longer a piece of equipment is missing, the greater the likelihood it will not be found or, if it is found, it will be significantly damaged.

Ninety-two percent of the LoJack-equipped construction equipment reported stolen in 2003 was recovered by law enforcement in less than 24 hours, up 5 percent from 2002.

Additionally, 39 percent was recovered in less than one hour, up 10 percent from the previous year. Ninety-five percent of the equipment recovered with LoJack was undamaged.

The LoJack System is a radio frequency-based stolen vehicle recovery system that delivers a success rate of more than 90 percent, according to the company. Certified technicians install the LoJack system covertly in one of many possible locations on an individual piece of equipment.

If a piece of equipment installed with LoJack is stolen, the owner files a stolen vehicle report with the police to automatically begin the activation process. A silent radio signal is sent directly to the equipment to activate the hidden LoJack transponder. The silent radio frequency signal is picked up by Lojack Police Tracking Computers (PTCs) that are installed in law enforcement vehicles — police cruisers and aviation units — enabling them to quickly track and recover the stolen vehicle. The signals pinpoint the location and lead police to a rapid recovery, typically in just a few hours.

The 2003 LoJack Construction Equipment Theft Report is based on state theft statistics and equipment recoveries documented by LoJack in 15 states from January to December 2003. LoJack intends to track, analyze, and publish construction equipment theft and recovery data each year to provide statistics and trends for the construction industry.