Every landscape contractor and gardener knows someone who was a victim of a power equipment theft. You’ve heard the story… “I was in the backyard for a few minutes and when I came out front my line trimmer was gone!”

Grounds maintenance crews and gardeners are often easy targets for theft. The sad thing about this is that it doesn’t have to happen. A ten foot length of good chain and a good lock cost about $60.00. How much does a new line trimmer cost?

Keeping your equipment chained or cabled together, or to the bed of your truck or trailer is your best insurance against theft. Keep in mind that most equipment thefts are spontaneous. Someone is driving down the street, sees an unattended vehicle brimming with lawn care equipment and helps himself. He’s like a little kid in a candy store. You’ve got to keep the “candy” locked up! Even when you’re mowing five feet away from your equipment keep it locked. Make locking your equipment a habit.

Your lawn equipment is not the only target. Irrigation tools and parts, sprinklers, plants fresh from the nursery, and other tools and materials are often stolen. The use of locking cabinets or enclosed truck beds, vans or trailers are the best solutions.

There are other things you can do to reduce your chances of getting ripped off other than mounting an armed commando in a turret on top of your cab. Nearly every police department and sheriff department has a “Crime Prevention Program”. Even though they vary slightly from one community to another they are basically the same.

The crime prevention programs are concerned with the marking of equipment so that it can be easily identified in case of theft. Some communities, like San Diego, CA, provide you with a “business I.D. number” that you engrave on all your business equipment, everything from lawn mowers to computers. That way when a piece of equipment is stolen and then recovered they can readily identify it. Others encourage you to mark your equipment with your driver’s license number. They all recommend that you record all serial numbers with a description of the equipment.

Part of many of the crime prevention programs of many communities is the use of the “Operation ID Marking Kit”. The kit contains: an electric engraver; an ultraviolet marker (the ink can only be seen under ultraviolet light, making it more difficult for a thief to make the stolen equipment less traceable); a laundry marker; an all purpose marker; inside the window decals that state participation in the program; property labels for office equipment; and a Guideline and Inventory Book. The kit usually costs about $15.00. If it’s not readily available through your local law enforcement agency you can check with local sign companies.

One more thing. NEVER EVER, buy “used” equipment from someone who’s selling it out of the trunk of his car or truck. “Yup, I just couldn’t get enough work. This is the last thing I have left and I need the bucks quick. See, this here weed eater is practically new and it’s only 50 bucks. How about it?” When someone approaches you do not even deal with them. Write down his license plate number and a description of the vehicle and person and call the police immediately! When a gardener or landscaper goes out of business where does he usually try to sell his equipment? Either by a classified ad or at a lawn mower shop. That guy selling stuff on the street is a thief! He ripped off someone just like yourself. Turn him in! If you don’t it’s almost a sure bet that some other landscaper or gardener down the street will be buying your stolen line trimmer.

Lastly, prevention is only the first step. Check your insurance policy to see if this type of theft is covered. If not, there are many insurance companies that cater to the Green Industry.

Work smart. Work safe.