Farm Equipment Theft: How To Protect Yourself with Knowledge
Theft of farm or construction equipment is a real threat, with equipment costing more than a lot of houses and the thieves that realize there’s money to be made in the heavy machinery department – just Google it. Lots of farmers store equipment in multiple storage facilities across the land they use, not to mention the implements that don’t make it inside a shed or Quonset. Likewise, there are times when a construction company isn’t directly supervising their machinery – many thefts occur between 6pm Friday and 6am Monday.
Agriculture Online points out some of the reasons farm theft is so rampant:
“1. High value. “An average skid steer loader is $25,000 or better. Even a small John Deere Gator or a big ATV, you’re talking $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the bells and whistles,” he says.
2. Little to no security. “Part of the equipment’s design is that it will have multiple uses. As soon as you build something for multiple uses, you immediately have a security problem,” Shillingford notes. If a machine had one key that could start it but was lost or in the wrong place, productivity would be negatively impacted. Manufacturers cater to that by making keys to fit more than one model. “If you had a key for each machine on the farm, how difficult would that be? You’d have a lot of downtime, and it’s the main reason it’s not being done,” he says.
What that means is the physical security of your equipment is very close to zero, and trying to change that is more difficult than you think. “If you search online, you can find keys you can buy for a variety of machines. It’s easy,” he says.
3. Low risk of crime. The chances of getting caught are not as great as in other crimes. After thieves have taken equipment and gotten away with it, they get better and smarter at it the next time. “The reward is definitely greater than the risk,” Shillingford notes.”
You don’t have to be a victim. In fact, there are many options out there; some you’ve heard of, some might be new to you. We’ve put together quite a list of tips to help protect your tractors, combines, skid steers, dozers, and other items from the hands of thieves.
Preventing Farm Theft:
•Secure doors and windows with heavy-duty locks, especially those not in view of your house. Fit outside lights with automatic motion lights that react to movement – thieves like to use the cover of darkness.
•Lock up all your chemicals, they are pretty much like cash money for a thief.
•Think about locking devices for nurse tank valves.
•Make sure tanks are located in well-lit areas. If possible, place tanks where they can be seen from your house and have flow valves face the driveway/house.
•Request that chemicals be delivered on the days you need them and not before.
•Never leave the keys in your machines. One key will run many different machines if they’re similar – leaving a key in the machine makes not only that combine or tractor more easily stolen, but your whole fleet could wind up missing.
•Lock doors, if applicable.
•When there is a breakdown, return the equipment to your main farm yard area if possible. Too often farmers attempt to repair the machinery in the field and leave it unattended while obtaining replacement parts, only to return and find other parts missing.
•Never park machinery within easy access to the road where it is vulnerable to theft and vandalism. Logic says putting your machinery next to a busy road will deter thefts, but it’s been shown that seeing that equipment just tempts the bad guys worse.
•Always know where your equipment is located on the farm.
•Inventory equipment frequently and park it so it is obvious if something is missing.
•Record model numbers, descriptions, serial numbers, take pictures, and note any scratches, welding, decals, or any other unique characteristics in case the police become involved.
•Remove rotors, distributor caps or batteries from motorized equipment left outside for long periods of time.
•Use lockable fuel caps.
•Livestock. Because grazing animals are an easy target for thieves, regularly check fields. Ear notching, branding, and tattooing are permanent ways to mark cattle and are difficult to alter. Consider installing cameras so you can monitor animals in barns or yards from your home.
•When planting trees for shelter belts, do not leave trees-to-be-planted at the site overnight. This provides an excellent opportunity for theft.
Preventing Construction Equipment Theft:
Many of the above machinery theft-proofing ideas will work well on construction equipment. Here are some additional ideas:
•Use security devices offered by equipment manufacturers and aftermarket distributors to help prevent theft. Ignition locks, stabilizer arm locks and fuel shutoff valves can be effective.
•Install adequate lighting and fencing in equipment yards and job sites.
•Communicate with local law enforcement officials; let them know how long your equipment will be at job sites in their area. If they see equipment leaving a job site ahead of schedule, they’ll be more likely to ask questions.
•Take extra precautions on weekends, such as requesting extra police patrols or hiring security guards. Studies show that 90 percent of all equipment thefts take place between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday.
•Challenge strangers on your property or job sites. Show them you are on the alert.
This post is meant to inform, not spark fears, so take it with a grain of salt and just think of what you can do, personally, to help protect your investments.
Anything we missed? Leave your tips in the comments.