Dealing with the aftermath of theft
By Connie Lannan
August 6, 2023
You think you’ve covered all your bases — cameras, alarms, fencing, lights, GPS, cabling small equipment to walls or shelving, etc. But if you have one weakness in your security system, thieves will find a way to exploit it and get to your rental equipment. Two rental operators found that out the hard way and have since taken various measures to shore up those gaps.
Andrew Heesacker, ECP-SM, president/CEO, Arvada Rent-Alls, Arvada and Littleton, Colo., who serves as American Rental Association (ARA) Region Seven director, was awakened early Monday, July 24, when the police called one of Arvada Rent-Alls’ managers.
The cause of the alarm: Two individuals who “brazenly stole $15,000 worth of items from our Arvada store. Unfortunately, the police arrived one minute after the thieves left,” Heesacker says.
The security cameras at the store videotaped it all. “The one individual took demo saws, a jumping jack, backpack blowers — all brand-new — and our whole battery lineup of small hand tools. It looks like one person came in and threw the stuff out the window and the second person threw it into the bed of a 2020-ish red Ford 150 limited-edition truck they were driving. They were here seven to eight minutes. They knew what they were looking for, so we know they had to have been here before. Unfortunately, no one in our operation remembers seeing someone in our store who fit the description of the individual on the video,” he says.
How did they get in? “We have had some issues with this in the past, so we have replaced all our windows with tempered safety glass — except we had one more left to replace. They hit the front door four or five times and couldn’t get through it. That is how we know the glass works really well. Then they moved over to the big window, which we had not replaced yet. One hit and the window fell right out. They were able to get right in,” Heesacker says.
While the security cameras captured the individual walking around the store and picking up equipment, they couldn’t get a good angle on his face. “He was wearing a bucket hat, sunglasses and a mask that went right up to his sunglasses, so you couldn’t see anything. He had on shorts, but we didn’t see any tattoos,” Heesacker says.
As of press time, only a minimal amount of the equipment has been recovered. “The police did find the vehicle abandoned. They’re on the right track,” he adds.
Since all of this happened, Heesacker has been proactive in strengthening his security.
“We are replacing the window they broke with tempered glass and are currently in talks with a manufacturer of metal covers for the windows — like the ones in the mall that you would see over the entrances. These would be operated electronically so at the end of the day we could just hit the button and they would come down. We also are considering monitoring the security cameras. We did not have the cameras monitored, just the alarm system. All our small hand tools were cabled in, but they cut the cable with a battery-powered grinder, so we are looking at installing different types of cables. We have barbed wire on our fence and have not had any issues with our fencing, so we think we are OK there. The funny thing about this is that we had our police department scheduled to come out and do an audit of our security,” he says, adding that he wishes he had been able to schedule the audit before the theft occurred.
Out in Tacoma, Wash., Alexx Bacon, ECP-SM, president, Aaberg’s Tool & Equipment Rental & Sales, had a different type of theft situation occur. For the last four years he has been dealing with thieves cutting his fence and stealing his equipment.
“The worst has been the last two years. They always came in by cutting open our fence. We lost a Kubota utility vehicle out of our yard, which had a $5,000 or $6,000 value. We had a trailer stolen that was loaded with equipment — generators, a lawnmower and other inventory that was hard to track on the cameras. That was valued around $3,000. They tried to steal a pickup truck. They shattered the windows, broke the ignition and cut the catalytic converter. That cost me about $4,000 to repair. They also stole my service truck and drove it through the fence. That was a $45,000 vehicle. Luckily, I recovered it the next morning. We got the truck back, but it needed $5,000 worth of front-end work. We were able to recover some of the equipment, but overall we had around $100,000 of product stolen and have been able to recover some of those items with GPS tracking and through tips from the community,” he says.
Bacon had a closed-circuit camera system that was linked to motion detectors, which were overseen by a monitoring service. “If they saw something, the camera would ping to a monitor system and the folks would see it. By the time they saw something, called us or a police officer, it could be two minutes. The crime could be over by then and the thieves could be gone,” he says.
He kept trying to beef up his system. “We upgraded our cameras with the motion detectors, set up additional CCTV camera systems that had additional motion detection, added reinforcement bars to the fence around our whole property and we even demoed a camera trailer in our yard that would notify a cellphone that motion was detected. I used to carry fencing in my truck, too, to fix the fence,” Bacon says, adding that each “fix” of the fence cost him about $1,000.
It was becoming a very expensive and frustrating endeavor. “While a few individuals had been caught by the police, none spent a night in jail or were charged with a crime,” he says.
Last December, he took a bold step and installed an electric fence. “It is powered by battery and solar panels and is a 24/7, 365 days-a-year security system. The power doesn’t go out. The internet doesn’t stop it from working. It is cellphone-driven for a signal sending an alarm. It is a very secure and reliable option,” Bacon says.
Once everyone is out of the yard at night, the gates are shut and everything is locked, they turn the fence on. “We have bright, yellow signs every 5 to 7 ft. telling people it is an electric fence. It is armed with 7,000 volts. If someone touched it when it is on, they would get a very uncomfortable shock, like getting shocked by an electrical outlet. Because there is no amperage, it would not be fatal or cause serious harm to someone,” he says.
At the current time, electric fences in Tacoma are approved only in commercial industrial zones. Bacon says they are working with the city council to make it allowable at all commercial businesses. “It is allowed in all the areas around us. We think it will pass here,” he says.
Since putting up the electric fence, “we have had no break-ins, no thefts from our yard, no cut fences and no fence repairs. This fence gives us peace of mind,” he says.
For Bacon, this was the right step, even generating local and national interest. He was interviewed by his hometown news station, which prompted an interview on “Fox & Friends.” The story was then picked up by the New York Post, which is owned by the Murdoch family that also owns the Fox TV networks.
Both Heesacker and Bacon agree that rental operators have to stay observant, especially about the weak spots in their security systems because thieves will find them and do their best to take advantage.