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DPS official warns thieves go to work while we play

Sunday, July 2, 2006

SIKESTON -- While working folk look at holidays and weekends as time off from the job, many thieves see them as opportunities to go to work.

With the price of used equipment and scrap metal at an all-time high, equipment owners are being encouraged by law enforcement to take additional care and implement as many strategies as possible to make life harder for equipment thieves.

Most equipment thefts occur on weekends and holidays, according to an advisory from the National Equipment Register.

Capt. Mark Crocker of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety said it hasn't been a severe problem here, "but it has popped up on occasion with our businesses and construction sites."

He offered as an example the $35,000 worth of motorcycles and four-

wheelers stolen from Sikeston and Miner businesses around Memorial Day.

With holiday weekends, "they know they've got an extra day or so to get rid of the stuff before anybody misses it," Crocker said.

While investigators were able to recover the stolen property involved in the Memorial Day thefts, the thieves had already moved a lot of the stolen goods to Mississippi County and were in the process of moving some of it to Illinois.

The NER has compiled a list of things businesses and construction companies can do to "remove some of the opportunities" for thieves, Crocker said. "I think they have to use a little common sense."

While many of these strategies won't help much against professional thieves, they may effectively deter "opportunity thieves" who, unlike professional thieves, don't come prepared.

For example, equipment should be moved to fenced-in areas or other places that are less visible and more secure, Crocker said. Large machinery can be disabled by removing batteries, fuses or ignition circuits.

The NER also advises owners to not leave machines on trailers, even if it does save a few minutes upon returning to the job.

"Stealing trailers from construction sites is becoming more and more common," Crocker said. "You're better off to leave them off the trailers -- don't make it so easy for them."

Another strategy to use when a construction company or business has employees who live near the job site or business is to have them do spot checks over the weekend, according to Crocker.

"If you notice a missing piece of equipment, notify the police immediately," he said. If something is stolen Friday but isn't noticed and reported until Tuesday morning, "they have a good three-day head start on getting rid of it," he said.

Crocker said when a theft is reported without delay, "the odds of getting it back and arresting the people responsible for stealing it are a lot better."

The NER also advises equipment owners to keep an accurate, updated list of equipment including VIN and serial numbers.

Crocker said local contractors should post emergency contact numbers at job sites "so we can reach somebody in the event we find something wrong."

With high fuel prices, fuel thefts -- especially of diesel -- are also on the rise according to the NER.

Instead of topping off tanks before leaving the job site, "it is wiser to have tanks a little bit on the low side so they can't steal as much fuel from you," Crocker said. Low fuel levels can also make siphoning more difficult for thieves, he added.

While not all thefts are preventable, if owners "take a few precautionary measures to keep this from occurring, it would benefit us all," Crocker said.

Additional suggestions can be found in NER's free 12-page Theft Prevention Guide available for download at http://www.nerusa.com/theftPrevention.as...