Stop, Thief

By Melissa Somers, Executive Director, CPP of SoCal

WHETHER YOUR WORK truck is part of a huge company fleet or one of a few, having it stolen can lead to a lot of down time and even more paperwork. While there is a decent chance your truck will be recovered within a few days of being stolen, the tools you keep in your truck will most likely be a different story. The fact is, generally, thieves are more interested in the tools than the truck itself. Criminals know that getting away with stealing a vehicle is much more difficult than absconding with your tools and heading straight to Craigslist for a quick sale and some fun money. It goes without saying that thieves are planning on the fact that many companies and individuals don’t bother to take the time to inventory the tools in their possession, let alone mark them with anything that might put a damper on the thief’s plan to sell them or take them to a pawn shop for some quick cash.


Here are a few steps to take now to make your tools and truck less desirable and give them both a fighting chance of finding their way back to you if they are stolen:

  • Keep a photo of your truck in your phone showing identifying markings and license plate number (think company/fleet number) and where on the truck they are located.
  • Have a note, memo or photo of your truck’s VIN #, license plate and other identifying markings in your phone for quick, easy access and faster, more accurate reporting.
  • Keep your license plate clean. Some cities have LPRs (license plate readers) in patrol cars and stationed throughout the city. Keeping your license plate clean will ensure your plate can be read if LPRs are present.
  • Have an accessible list of the tools and equipment in your truck.
  • Mark your tools and equipment – large and small.

Marking your tools can include everything from painting each one a company specific color, adding CPP Reward Hotline decals, stamping or etching your Owner Applied Number (OAN) or driver’s license number or simply spray painting a stripe or dot on each tool to mark it as yours. (An OAN is a company specific, government-issued number used to mark property.) Just keep in mind that you want to have enough info on each tool for anyone recovering it to identify it as yours. The more complete the markings, the more likely the tools are to find their way back to you. If items are recovered by law enforcement and they have a marking that can be accessed by their system (OAN, or driver’s license number), they will attempt to contact you and reunite you with your tools.


Your day comes grinding to a stop when you realize that your truck has been stolen. After the initial reaction – anger, disbelief, maybe even a bit of panic – it’s important to have a plan and know how to execute it.

Call the police and have as much of the following information on hand to help complete the report:

  • License plate
  • VIN
  • Make, model, body style
  • Let the reporting officer know if your truck has GPS or LoJack
  • Company truck number / OAN
  • Picture of the truck
  • Complete list of tools and equipment in the truck

Ask for the report number and a copy of the report. (Snap photos of the written report that the officer takes; it can sometimes take a while to obtain your copy of the report after it’s filed).

This is where having photos and information on hand will really pay off. Easy access to this information will allow you to file your police report without having to wait for the company equipment manager to get back to you with your truck’s VIN and license plate number. Immediately let the officer know if the truck has GPS or LoJack. (Getting the vehicle’s information into the Stolen Vehicle System, or SVS, will activate the LoJack system).

Each tool and piece of equipment should be entered into the Automated Property System (APS) with as much information as possible — serial number, OAN, driver’s license number — to give yourself a fighting chance of recovering them. Share a copy of your inventory sheet with the officer and keep one handy with your completed police report. Interesting fact: The law requires an inquiry into APS for anything that shows up at pawn shops.

Bottom line: Be prepared. Be practical. Put yourself in the shoes of anyone finding your truck, tools or equipment when taking the time to mark them. Be sure to give clear information that leads to the rightful owner that can be interpreted by anyone who runs across them. Report the theft to police (and to CPP if you’re a member) and remember that the truck’s information should be entered into the SVS, tools and equipment into the APS.

Your work truck is your livelihood. Practicing prevention methods now that will allow timely, proper reporting in the event of a theft gives you a fighting chance of getting some of your property back. When faced with less than ideal realities, having a plan in place is empowering and effective.

It’s also a great way to increase the chance of getting your property back — and a bit of your peace of mind.

The Crime Prevention Program of Southern California (CPP) is a non-profit organization working with our members, law enforcement, the construction industry and area auto theft task forces to educate, empower and engage in a community fighting construction crime. For information on how you can join the CPP community, contact Melissa Somers, executive director, at 562-860-9006 or email [email protected]. Together, We Make a Difference.

Leave a Reply