ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Mich. — Recent thefts in rural Michigan are among a regional larceny trend targeting commercial lawn equipment, farm implements and construction equipment, Michigan State Police Det. Sgt. Todd Petersen said. Such dealerships, with their massive lots and sometime lax security, are frequent targets of theft in Three Rivers, Cass County, Coldwater and all over the southern tier of counties near the Indiana border, according to a story on MLive.com.
The equipment is valuable, easy to grab, and difficult for authorities to trace once it's gone, Petersen said. For example, a recent theft was of a custom outfitted skid steer loader valued at about $80,000. Many dealerships lack sophisticated security systems and may not even discover overnight or weekend thefts for hours or days.
Detective Brett Wilson of the Johnson County Kansas Sheriff's Department in Olathe, Kan., says that authorities there are turning to social media for help. The department founded the TRACE program in 2014 — Theft Reports of Agricultural and Construction Equipment — to quickly inform participants in the program of suspicious activities. The program uses Facebook as a database for stolen pieces and sends out an email alert to members.
Wilson said his department wanted to be able to spread information throughout rural areas of the as well as urban Kansas City. "Let's say we have a skid steer loader stolen, we want to be able to tell other people in that trade and to make public its serial number and picture so people can be on the lookout if they see it offered for sale on Craig's list or at equipment auctions."
It also gives members a "wake-up call" as to how many items are being stolen and how, which may prompt better security efforts, Wilson said. Once they are stolen, the recovery rate is very low. Only 8-10% of these types of vehicles are recovered, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Unlike personal cars and trucks, these commercial items are not registered, licensed or tracked, he said.