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Doug Haas, your ARA regional director, talks equipment theft

By Doug Haas

June 6, 2023

Doug Haas

Doug Haas

Hello, American Rental Association (ARA) Region Six members, and welcome to the first of what is expected to be a regularly occurring edition of the In Your Region newsletter that is solely focused on helping you manage the risk of equipment theft in your rental operation.

There are a lot of ways to approach securing your property and equipment.

One of the first things you need to do is utilize the services of NER (National Equipment Register) if you have off-road equipment. Through their theft- reporting system and equipment registry, the folks at NER know a lot about theft within our world of rental. We utilize NER to register equipment in my rental operation. ARA members can register up to 1,000 pieces of mobile, off-road equipment with NER’s HELPTech database for free. And my ARA state chapter (ARA of Minnesota) has even had NER reps conduct a presentation for law enforcement to educate them. To find out more, click here.

GPS is also a handy tool. We use GPS devices on more than  100 pieces of our equipment at my rental business. The brand that we use has a five-year battery life and requires no monthly fees.

Hearing stories from your rental peers is always beneficial. For instance, take these cases we have seen in Minnesota in which crooks represented themselves as an employee of a contractor who has an account or as a city employee, providing fake purchase orders:

  • In one case a person said they were from the city of Minneapolis and had to deliver a couple of generators to a school. When our driver got there, the customer met him on the street in front of the school in an unmarked pickup truck with no uniform or badge. Our driver sensed that something wasn’t right and asked him for his ID. The crook claimed he forgot it in his lunchbox. He left to go get it and never returned. The lesson? If something seems a little off or not right, ask questions.
  • In another, a person claiming to work for a contractor that was located about a block from our store reserved a mini track loader, saying he would have a towing company pick it up. After a week of the unit being out, our employees called the contractor to ask how much longer they would need it. The contractor informed us that they had not rented the unit and had no employees by the name of the individual who had taken it. Our staff contacted me as I was away at The ARA Show™ and when I returned home, I traced the GPS. The crooks had found the GPS on the unit and disposed of it in a ditch, but we had a ping map showing all its locations. Here’s what had happened: The tow truck driver had dropped the unit at a school. After he left, an accomplice came by, picked the unit up and took it to a garage in Minneapolis where they held it for three days before finding the GPS. With this information, the police detective was able to locate other stolen property on the premise and during the investigation found out the suspect was already under investigation by the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension), so the case was turned over to them. We never recovered our unit, but the crooks were eventually apprehended, receiving 12 convictions. The takeaway here: Fully vet every customer who comes in claiming to represent another party.

Communication among your rental network is important. In yet another theft case, a crime ring out of Chicago would call rental stores and request a certain model and brand of equipment, then rent it for the minimum period. They were using fake IDs and stolen credit cards. This group was stopped by communication between rental companies in Minnesota. Police arrested the suspects at a rental store after the owner detained them by asking lots of questions and fumbling with the computer until law enforcement could arrive. My suggestion: Don’t be an island — get to know your fellow rental operators, even if they are competitors. We’re all in this together when it comes to theft.

Read on in this issue for more ideas and tips that could help you stop thieves in their tracks when they have their sights set on your equipment or event rental business.

Doug Haas, ARA Region Six director
Crown Rental
Burnsville, Minn.