By Mike Reitan,Assistant WF Police Chief
Recent equipment theft activity reported to National Equipment Register confirms that criminal elements continue to target machines staged for snow removal operations, particularly in Mid Atlantic, Great Lakes and Mid Western states.
The inherent vulnerability of machines left unmonitored in publicly accessible areas for extended periods is too great a temptation. In late 2012 and thus far in 2013, everything from compact tractors to medium size articulated loaders have been taken from parking lots, private roadways and commuter transit locations (even municipal machines) where they were left to provide snow clean up.
Additionally, thieves take advantage of the fact that machines being loaded or operated at late hours and on weekends during storms are not suspicious to the general public or law enforcement, who have more urgent concerns.
With new storms currently dumping snow throughout many areas, NER strongly encourages equipment owners and law enforcement to be aware of this continual problem.
Equipment owners, dealers and rental operators must be conscious of security on any machines sent to publicly accessible areas in anticipation of storm clean up, and take steps to reduce the vulnerability of the machines and attachments:
• Do not 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.
• Disable machines that must be left in the open- remove relays, battery cables, etc. to make operating a machine more difficult for a thief.
• Reach out to the local businesses -- be sure property managers and businesses at the location know how to reach you if they see something odd occurring with your machines.
• Contact local police -- let the patrol officers in the area know you have machines that must be left in the open, and be sure the duty officers or watch commanders have your emergency contact information.
• 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, wall or bollard to make removal more difficult. Tilt the plows forward to the ground if it does not 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 NER registration is up to date and all machines are recorded accurately. Update your emergency contact information if numbers or personnel have changed. Have current photos of machines, especially if you are using plows or snow blowers in place of buckets
• It’s already snowing? It’s not too late -- check up on machines regularly, change where you stage them and leave them low on fuel if possible.
• Report thefts immediately- Make a police report before driving around the neighborhood looking for a missing machine. Report thefts to NER as soon as practical - call 866-663-7872 or see www.ner.net
Information provided by the National Equipment Register www.ner.net
Locally, your own residential snow blower may also be at risk. When not in use your snow blower should be stored inside a garage or locked shed. If you do need to leave the snow blower outdoors, store it next to your home and out of sight of the street. You should pick a location where you can routinely view the snow blower so any theft can be detected early. If you decide to take a rest period or run out of fuel while using your snow blower do not leave it on the sidewalk or near the end of your driveway. Someone may steal the machine later claiming they thought it was abandoned or junk.