Recognizing The Challenges Of Heavy Equipment

Construction Crime Conundrums

Every industry has inherent challenges. The construction industry is no exception. Construction theft, and more specifically thefts that involve heavy equipment, present more than their fair share of challenges. Taking time to raise your awareness of some of the challenges, and then discerning which of them can be addressed, is half the battle.

Construction theft hits all of us in some way or another.  Sure, the contractor or rental company is the one that directly suffers the loss. But when a piece of equipment is taken, from a freeway improvement project or housing development, we can all get hit with the ripple effect of the crime through job delays or an overall cost of a project that will, eventually, get passed on.  

Nationwide construction theft averages annually anywhere between $300 million to $1 billion, with most estimates in the range of $400 million; California regularly ranks in the top 5 states for equipment theft. The recovery rate for stolen heavy equipment averages in the low 20 percent.  Compare that to the recovery rate for stolen automobiles averaging around 80 percent, and it shines a very direct light on that shortfall in recovery chances.   

So why is recovering heavy equipment so elusive? Let’s take a look at just some of the challenges present in dealing with construction and heavy equipment thefts:

  • How and where construction crime happens: From remote locations to busy freeways in plain sight where no one questions it. At sites that are closed for weekends and/or holidays, causing delays in discovering the theft and delays in reporting it.
  • Rising crime and felony thresholds.
  • Rise in fraud.
  • Turnover that can lead to gaps in  training: This applies to contractors as well as law enforcement.
  • The available law enforcement resources or lack thereof.
  • The mindset that theft is considered an “acceptable loss” or the “cost of doing business” means it often goes unreported.
  • Identification numbers on equipment are complex and have an inconsistent layout. There is an overwhelming quantity of numbers on any one piece of equipment: VIN/PIN, Serial number, Unit number, Engine number, CARB number, and other manufacture or ownership numbers.
  • Inaccurate or incomplete ownership records.
  • Confusion over the best information and/or numbers to report.
  • Incorrect information provided and/or entered when reporting.


While this is only a partial list of challenges, it gives you an idea of what we’re all up against. Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, while there may be very little we can do about some challenges, simply raising our awareness of them can help us make some headway.

A numbers game

Heavy equipment, by its very nature, can be incredibly difficult to deal with when it comes to managing your inventory or reporting a theft. No standard must be adhered to when manufacturers label their equipment with identification numbers.  In addition to the layout of ID numbers being inconsistent, the placement of these numbers is also fairly subjective.  

There can be an abundance of numbers (PIN, serial number, engine number, etc.) used to mark any one piece of equipment, and that’s before it makes its way to an owner who will more than likely add things like their own unit number, OAN, CARB number, etc.   

We can’t change how or where manufacturers mark their equipment. What we can do is develop an understanding of the complexities and choose how we can make reality work for us. It’s vital to know which numbers are the most important to keep track of and report when theft occurs. CPP, through working with our partners in law enforcement, knows which of the myriad of numbers are the best to use when filing a police report to increase the chance of a potential recovery. 

As law enforcement expert Lou Koven explained, frequent turnover and assignment changes in both law enforcement and construction — as well as an ever-changing world — present another challenge to construction crime prevention and investigations. This challenge dictates the need for an established and reliable source of support and training.

Nature of the beast

When you think about the very nature of most construction work, it’s easy to realize the next round of challenges. Projects tend to occur all over the place — from remote jobs where infrastructure is being installed for a new housing development to freeway improvement projects — and equipment needed to complete these jobs is everywhere. Further complicating things is the fact that any one piece of equipment can be utilized by multiple employees and be transferred to multiple job sites, in the area, or even out of state. 

Most job sites, whether they are in the middle of nowhere or smack dab in plain sight, are usually closed on weekends and holidays, presenting a multitude of vulnerabilities. Crooks are poised and ready to take advantage of the opportunity your vacant job site presents and pilfer your profits. Since the majority of thefts take place over weekends and holidays, many aren’t discovered until employees return to work, causing a detrimental delay in reporting the loss. CPP members know that regardless of when or how theft occurs, it’s worth reporting.

We’re here to help

It’s not necessary to face these challenges alone. CPP of SoCal has been devoted to offering on-going support and training to law enforcement officers and member companies since being founded in 1984. 

When you become a CPP of SoCal member, you join a unique community working to fight construction crime. CPP works with members, local and regional law enforcement to prevent theft and provide support in the event of an incident, sharing information about best reporting practices, validating reports, and connecting people to ensure each theft gets the attention it deserves.

Our members can be assured that they’ve  got someone in their corner to help them understand the challenges and decipher how best invest their resources to address them. They know that CPP is standing ready to help them address challenges head-on and many members testify  to our continued support. We want everyone to know that theft does not need to be written off and welcome every opportunity to prove our  motto: Together, We Make A Difference.

In next month’s blog, we’ll dive deeper into specific solutions to these challenges that will help unravel the construction crime conundrum. 


Sign up today to take advantage of the many benefits of CPP of SoCal, including free training and seminars for industry professionals and law enforcement to empower you with the knowledge to face these challenges and more.

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