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Archive for January, 2007

Heavy equipment stolen by thieves brings big bucks in disaster areas – Certified Equipment operators learn safety first

Posted by nahetsblog on January 16, 2007

Nelson Wyatt, Canadian Press

Published: Monday, January 15, 2007

MONTREAL (CP) – One thief stole backhoes to dig basements and swimming pools on the weekend. Another wanted heavy equipment to help rebuild war-torn Lebanon and areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The theft of heavy equipment – road graders, front-end loaders and snowplows – usually gets a chuckle when it’s reported as an oddball news story.

But George Kleinsteiber isn’t laughing.

“It’s about a $33-million-a-year problem,” says the former Ontario Provincial Police auto theft investigator who now advises companies and police on how to combat heavy equipment theft.

Kleinsteiber agrees that more cars are stolen than heavy equipment but “the value of each vehicle is so much greater for a piece of heavy equipment. We get into the millions of dollars very quickly as compared to automobiles.

“You have one piece of heavy equipment stolen that’s worth about $100,000 to $200,000 – that’s an awful lot of Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas,” says Kleinsteiber, citing the targets of choice for many car thieves.

And like hot cars, heavy equipment finds its way overseas where there’s a demand, usually after a disaster.

Kleinsteiber said equipment has made its way to Pakistan, Israel and Lebanon.

“There has to be a community out there in North America that are actually the eyes and ears there, stealing and then sending it back to the homeland,” said Kleinsteiber, who works with the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association.

“I know down in Louisiana, they’ve recovered a number of pieces of stolen heavy equipment after Katrina went through,” he said, pointing out that contractors realized there was a lot of money to be made in disaster areas.

“But they didn’t have the equipment. They’ve been stealing equipment and taking it down to that area and they’ve been using that to rebuild the hurricane damage.”

Kleinsteiber said groups from Pacific Rim countries are particularly active, basically working with shopping lists and selling their swag for double and triple the value when it’s shipped to buyers in their home countries.

And once it heads out of the country, there’s little chance to get it back because customs officers usually check what’s coming into Canada, not what’s leaving, Kleinsteiber said.

Most of the heavy equipment theft takes place in construction-rich Quebec and Ontario.

“The thieves go where the equipment is most plentiful,” Kleinsteiber explains.

Jeff Morrison, a spokesman for the Canadian Construction Association, said equipment theft is a heavy burden for the industry which is basically comprised of small businesses.

Insurance doesn’t usually cover the full cost and losses are inevitably passed on to the consumer through increased prices and longer completion times for projects.

“If you don’t have the equipment, people can’t be doing their jobs,” he said. “It takes time to replace. If you have, for example, a dozer, you can’t just replace that overnight.”

Robert D’Errico knows that first hand. He runs Montreal-based Broadway Pavers, which has a fleet of about 50 vehicles used in the paving of roads and parking lots.

“About 10 to 12 years ago, they broke into our yard and they removed a payloader,” he recalls.

Insurance picked up the tab but the saga wasn’t over.

“Two years later we were informed by the police that it was found in Boston. Apparently it had gone from Montreal to Vancouver to all around from what we can understand and it was found in an auction in Boston. I guess when the guy who bought it went to have it licensed, something didn’t jibe with the serial numbers and that’s how they found it.”

He estimates his company has had four major equipment thefts in the 50 years it’s been in operation. The company originally didn’t have a fence or an alarm on its lot, but that has changed.

“Now we even have concrete barriers that would take really big machinery to drive through,” he said. “They’ve got to be really determined to go through it.”

But D’Errico acknowledges there are some pretty determined thieves out there. He said one of his partner companies had a backhoe stolen from a job site this summer.

“There was even a guard at the site but as he was doing his rounds, I guess he went to the back and they were in the front and they took the machine right from under him.”

Brazen describes most heavy equipment thieves, Kleinsteiber says.

Take the crook digging the swimming pools and basements. Kleinsteiber says he took a new backhoe every weekend for two summers, did the digging and then abandoned the equipment where police would find it so they would simply close the case. He was eventually caught.

Another drove a truck onto a subdivision site and loaded up the biggest excavator shovel there.

“It was over width, over height, over weight,” Kleinsteiber recalls of the shovel, which was bigger than the truck that carried it off. “He put it on his truck and he left.”

When company officials clicked they’d been ripped off and called police, plenty of people were found who said they helped the crook load the shovel but thought nothing of it.

“All anybody remembers is the guy had a moustache and it was a red truck,” Kleinsteiber said.

Even police can get hoodwinked. Kleinsteiber remembered one collared thief telling him he had taken a backhoe from a cemetery in Oakville, Ont., and drove it to Pickering, Ont., a trip of about five hours at the backhoe’s top speed of 22 km-h. That’s where he ran out of gas. And was approached by a police officer.

The thief thought the jig was up – until the unsuspecting cop helped him get gas from a nearby station and sent him on his way with a friendly wave.

t doesn’t help that one key fits all on a lot of equipment but manufacturers are beginning to install security items such as Global Positioning Systems as options. Industry and police are also getting more aware of the problem.

Morrison would like to see stiffer penalties as well. Current sentences can range from a fine to house arrest.

“The more co-operation we can have from police, the more of a deterrence factor we can put in place, the happier our industry will be,” Morrison said.

Nelson Wyatt of the Canadian Press can br reached at

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State fears agricultural disaster – Heavy Equipment to the rescue

Posted by nahetsblog on January 4, 2007

Helicopters, snowmobiles may bring hay to isolated livestock to prevent a reprise of the ’97 disaster.

By Carlos Illescas
Denver Post Staff Writer
State officials worry that the blizzard that hit southeastern Colorado will become an agricultural disaster, rivaling the October 1997 storm that killed 26,000 head of cattle and cost ranchers more than $28 million.

“It’s bad out there,” said Polly White, spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Emergency Management. “Livestock is one of our major concerns. Gov. (Bill) Owens has authorized any means necessary to get hay bales to the livestock.”

A plan was in place for teams with snowmobiles and sleds to begin bringing bales of hay to the cattle by Monday evening or today. The snowmobiles were brought in from snowmobile clubs throughout the state. The Civil Air Patrol began flying over the area Monday to identify the locations of the stranded cows, and a C-130 helicopter was available to drop hay to the animals. The snow has piled so high that many ranchers haven’t made it out to the fields to feed their cattle since Friday.

“If we don’t have some help soon, we’re going to have a whole lot of dead livestock,” said Bill Carwin, who has about 150 head west of Springfield in Baca County.

State Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, on Monday urged U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to declare a number of Eastern Plains counties disaster areas, a first step in securing federal assistance.

Some power lines in the area were down, but White did not know how many people were without electricity. She said the National Guard recorded eight medical evacuations Sunday and rescued people from at least 35 vehicles who were still stranded from Friday’s and Saturday’s snow. Numbers from Monday weren’t available.

Carwin keeps his cattle about 30 miles from his home west of Springfield. On Monday, he and other ranchers were using loaders and other heavy equipment to try to get their cattle.

But even if some don’t die, the livestock tend to try to flee to safety, going through fences and other barriers. Carwin feared that he may not be able to find the ones that have survived. “We need help. We need big equipment to open these roads,” he said.

Much of the state’s heavy equipment has been used to clear roads in southeastern Colorado, hit the hardest by last week’s blizzard.

In Springfield, travelers such as Mark Laudick and his son were going on their fourth day of being stranded.

“I think everyone just wants to drive out of here,” said Laudick, one of the fortunate ones who were able to secure a hotel room instead of having to stay at area shelters. “The National Guard says the road is fine, but they are not letting us through.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation had plowed most roads in the area, although they were still snowpacked Monday afternoon. Authorities were reluctant to open U.S. 287 out of Springfield because they don’t want motorists to slide off the road and get stranded again.

But CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman expected that stretch of U.S. 287 to be open by Monday evening.

“We still have hundreds of trucks lined up on 287,” Stegman said.

A few roads in southeastern Colorado may still not be open by today, including U.S. 350 and U.S. 160, Stegman said.

Officials believe most of the people stranded had been rescued by Monday, but they were still searching for anyone who could not make it to safety.

Staff writer Carlos Illescas can be reached at 303-954-1175 or cillescas@denverpost.com

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