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Working to combat equipment theft

By Ashleigh Petersen

March 22, 2023

Law enforcement theft trainingDuring The ARA Show™ 2023 in Orlando, attendees may have noticed a group of law enforcement officers visiting booths throughout the trade show floor. This was part of a special training session held to help the officers become more familiar with one of the industry’s biggest issues — equipment theft. 

The more than one dozen law enforcement members in attendance came from different departments and organizations throughout Florida. The training was conducted by past ARA Insurance/NER Officer of the Year Award winners, who are current and retired law enforcement investigators specializing in heavy equipment. They shared theft trends; gave insider knowledge on the type of equipment that is typically stolen and why; and discussed the red flags officers should look for such as: 

  • Counterfeit or damaged PIN plates on equipment. 
  • Equipment that has been spray painted or painted an odd color.
  • Equipment that has been abandoned — such as equipment being hidden in the woods. 
  • Stolen equipment hiding in plain sight. For example, equipment that’s listed for sale online at very low prices. 
  • Signs of fraudulent rentals. 

Following the presentation, law enforcement members walked the trade show floor to look at equipment and get a better understanding of where PIN plates can be spotted on various types of equipment.  

Law enforcement theft training

Detective Sergeant James Dietz of the Michigan State Police, Special Investigations Division, who presented at the training, says The ARA Show is an excellent training ground for law enforcement. 

“At The ARA Show, you can look at all kinds of manufacturers, different styles and types of equipment, and get a better understanding of where the PIN plates are and some of the hidden numbers — what to look for and where to look for it,” he said. “Plus, it’s a little quicker. It’s all brand new, you go out, you can find it and you can move onto another piece. You can get a lot of hands-on experience in a short period of time on different pieces. So, I think that’s great.” 

Dietz added that on the flip side, those attending the show can see that a law enforcement class is being held to help rental businesses.  

“Hopefully they can see that we’re here for the rental industry. We’re here not only to learn how to investigate, but we want to learn their issues as well and what they’re up against,” he said. 

Building relationships with local law enforcement can be an effective way to teach them about equipment theft and the impact it can have on rental businesses. 

“To be successful in building a relationship with law enforcement, you may want to engage with other rental store owners within your jurisdiction or geographic area to identify business-specific issues, or the types of criminal activity that affect all stakeholders. These issues often include rental theft [conversions], fraud and burglaries,” said Pat McGrail, Deputy Constable Pct. #3 (Reserve) in Tarrant County, Texas — who presented during the training. 

After business owners have identified the business-specific issues impacting their store(s), they can start a business-specific partnership with local law enforcement.  

“This is often mutually beneficial as you may have the opportunity to not only mitigate your losses, but to also see a reduction in the level of criminal activity in your area,” McGrail said. 

“At this point, you may reach out to local law enforcement to arrange a meeting where all stakeholders may be present. At this meeting, the rental store owner(s) and local law enforcement representatives will have the opportunity to begin discussing how to address the business-specific issues you previously identified. These meetings should continue on a regular basis, with a mechanism to share additional information moving forward,” he added. 

Retired-Sergeant Daniel Pearson — who also presented during the training session — offered additional suggestions on how to begin building these relationships.  

Law enforcement theft training“Rental stores [owners] should meet with the officers that patrol their area. Know them by name and allow them into the store anytime they are open. Encourage the officers to stop by and do their reports and have coffee, lunch, etc.,” he said. 

To further protect their equipment, American Rental Association (ARA) members can register up to 1,000 pieces of mobile, off-road equipment with the National Equipment Register’s (NER) HELPTech database for free. When companies register their equipment, NER will send theft deterrent warning decals that let potential thieves know the equipment is registered in a searchable, national database. 

Participating members may be eligible for a theft-deductible waiver of up to $10,000 through their insurance company. 

Click here to learn more about ARA and NER’s partnership. 

To report equipment rental and purchase frauds to NER, fill out an online report or call 866-663-7872.