According to the latest statistics, crime in the UK is down 9% from the same time last year. Could somebody point this out to the thieving beggars who steal everything from manhole covers and power tools to catalytic convertors from depots, vehicles and construction projects across the country? Unfortunately our industry seems to be overly susceptible to the opportunist thief and the construction industry suffers similar problems. Stealing from the back of vehicles or breaking in to depots is bad enough, but when grounds men taking their lunch break are threatened as they are relieved of their strimmers, the problem is going too far. Fortunately this has been the exception rather than a menacing trend, but still a very unpleasant experience for anyone.
The ultimate cost of these types of theft should not be underestimated. Downtime and disruption to work flow from not having machines, repairs to the depot to make it secure (not to mention the call-out disruption if the depot was alarmed), short term hire and/or replacements to keep the job going. In many cases this type of loss will fall below the insurance excess so the cost will be taken straight off the bottom line. What of the perpetrators? The kit could have been stolen to be used elsewhere or sold round the back of the pub or at a car boot sale. Wherever it end ends up it is unlikely that the equipment will ever be recovered. Ironically, the fallout from the theft of larger machines is somewhat easier to manage. Although the insurance claim process can be lengthy, recovery rates for larger equipment tends to be better due to trackers, electronic tagging and services such as The Equipment Register assisting the police in identifying recovered equipment.
Whilst we can mark our machines with asset numbers or paint them to make them easier to identify, recovering small items of plant is virtually impossible. Products such as Smart Water® go a long way to deterring the theft of static assets such as cabling, precious materials and expensive components, but can prove problematic for machines which are constantly being handled by operators and mechanics though worth considering for catalytic convertors, you might not the convertor back but the police may be able to identify the person who stole it.
I believe that the best deterrent is to keep things out of sight and secure at all times to make it difficult for the opportunist. When on site lock things in strong boxes or use chains and padlocks to secure equipment to the back of vehicles. There are thieves out there who have been so bold/stupid/desperate (delete where applicable), to have actually cut through the handle of the machine to free it from its security chain! The best example – cutting through the shaft of a strimmer to release it from the securing slot of a tool vault, let’s hope there was a new head on it as they got nothing else of value.
At the depot don’t attract unwanted attention, if you’ve had new equipment delivered don’t leave the boxes visible in the yard or skip to advertise your new investment. Inside the depot try to get into a routine of securing power tools in a container, cage or secure room which can be blocked by a trailer, ride-on or similar inanimate object. Alarm systems, steel shutters, strong boxes and anti-ram bars are all expensive but if they make a burglar think twice then they are worth the investment – think of the hassle if you do get broken into. As to protecting catalytic convertors, apparently you are not allowed to wrap razor wire around them – pity.
Group Head of Assets and Fleet