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Tips to help prevent equipment theft

Equipment theftWhen it comes to your horticultural business, there are a lot of things that might keep you up at night—temporary help, quality of inventory, delivery schedules, new business software, etc. However, are you also thinking about what’s likely your biggest investment—your equipment?

It’s not just mechanical breakdowns that are a cause for concern with equipment. Theft is also a major issue. It’s estimated between $300 million and $1 billion worth of heavy equipment is stolen annually. And that’s not counting smaller items, such as materials and tools—or the cost of downtime and replacement. The lack of surveillance, ease of selling stolen parts, and difficulty in capturing suspects are all factors that drive equipment theft. However, there are ways you can protect yourself.

Most thieves are looking for whatever is the easiest to steal. But you can make yourself less of a target if you build a layered approach to security.

Storage security
Whether it’s at your business or on a job site, how you store your equipment goes a long way in terms of protection. The main idea is to make your site unappealing to thieves so they will move on to easier pickings. Here are some simple suggestions:

  • Don’t offer a free ride: Park your equipment off the trailer. An empty trailer is not as appealing as a loaded one.
  • Create a traffic jam: Park large vehicles in a way so they box in smaller equipment.
  • Link items together: Take a chain and thread several machines together. Use a quality lock to secure.
  • Light it up: Thieves love the cover of darkness. A brightly lit equipment area makes a site less attractive to thieves.
  • Make your mark: Paint your equipment a unique color or have identifying decals. Thieves want equipment that’s not visibly linked to a business or owner. It’s easier for them to sell.
  • Keep tabs on trends: Know what the popular targets are for equipment thieves in your area.
  • Say cheese: Consider adding surveillance equipment or motion detectors to the job site.

There are also anti-theft devices you can buy. Wheel locks, control locks, and immobilizers limit the functions of your vehicles and make them harder to drive off.

GPS devices and LoJack® also give you the ability to track your equipment. But remember, these items are only good for recovery and do little to prevent theft.

If you happen to be a victim of equipment theft, notify authorities immediately. Thefts reported right away have a much higher probability of being recovered than those reported after some time has passed.

Be proactive
There are also steps you can take to aid in recovery of stolen items, but you need to act before a theft occurs:

  • Write down what you have: It’s as simple as keeping a record of the serial numbers on your equipment. In doing so, you’ll also be able to identify the items and have them returned if recovered. Keep the records of the numbers in a secure place.
  • Join a database: The National Equipment Register offers a free service called HELPtech. You can register any piece of mobile equipment. Legitimate buyers of used equipment use the site to see if it was previously registered. If something doesn’t seem right, they often contact police.

Insurance options
While you’re building a layered approach to equipment security, don’t forget about another kind of security—insurance. Review your policies, and see what’s covered and how it’s covered. Do you have rental coverage? What about business interruption policies? These are all insurance options that might work for you.

Ask to meet with your Hortica agent, and he or she will be happy to go over your insurance coverage options, define what they mean, and how those policies can help protect your investments.