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How to prevent theft in the landscape industry

April 19, 2021 -  By
Police apprehend the suspect who stole a mini excavator from one of LDC Groups’ job sites in Lula, Ga. (Photo courtesy of LDC Groups)

Police apprehend the suspect who stole a mini excavator from one of LDC Groups’ job sites in Lula, Ga. (Photo courtesy of LDC Groups)

When Mark Cohea started driving to work on a Monday morning last month, he had no idea of the wild ride he and his wife were about to go on.

The Coheas live in the mountains of North Carolina, so it’s a winding hour and 45 minutes to get to LDC Groups in Lula, Ga. As they were driving, Cohea got a phone call informing him that a mini excavator was stolen from a job site over the weekend. And, as fate would have it, and the Reveal app from Verizon Connect would reveal, the excavator was on the move and not far from his location.

“My wife was looking at the GPS on my phone to see where they were,” Cohea says. “We’re in the north Georgia mountains at this point, and I had her call 911. We’re letting the police know, ‘Now they’re going down this road. Now they’re going down that road.’ I was heading their direction when I saw the mini ex crest over the top of a hill and the blue lights behind it. I was like, ‘Oh my God, they turned around — they’re coming back this way!’”

Cohea pulled into a church parking lot to let the action come toward him. The rental truck pulling the mini ex was refusing to pull over. A police SUV whipped in front of the truck to force the thieves to stop.

“It was slower than O.J. (Simpson). Man, it was hilarious,” Cohea says, laughing. “Of course, I missed the (record) button on my (phone) video. They had guns pulled and everything.”

In broad daylight

Jon Kurkowski, owner of Proformance Turf in Denver, N.C., has lost count of how many times he’s had equipment stolen off his truck in the 35 years he’s been in the business. He remembers one day that stood out, when he was cleaned out in broad daylight.

“I was working a fleet of 12-15 McDonald’s locations, and I pulled my truck and trailer across from the drive-thru menu board,” he says. “They took everything they could carry, and this was at 12:30 in the afternoon! There is literally no busier place in Charlotte at noon than the drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant. (Theft) is a profession now; it doesn’t just happen after midnight.”

Proformance Turf provides lawn care and irrigation repair services to the Lake Norman region of North Carolina. Kurkowski uses GPS trackers from Amcrest on his more expensive equipment, like his Z-Spray spreader-sprayer or his stand-on mower. He likes that he can move them from machine to machine and that they’re small, about the size of a pager or a stack of business cards.

“You put the app on your phone and track it — it’s worldwide, man,” he says. “There’s a small service fee that is automatically charged each month. It’s never failed me. You can hide it on the machine, and it has a weatherproof box, like an OtterBox for a cellphone. If they disconnect it, it still has a battery life that lasts 30 days.”

Tony Nicoletti, vice president of California-based DPL Telematics, says an advancement that is new to the last 10 years is what Kurkowski describes: a simple self-contained tracking unit that doesn’t need to be hardwired into the machine. Nicoletti suggests that these simple trackers are a good way to take a first step into asset tracking.

“I tell people to start out as simple as possible,” Nicoletti says. “A lot of people are seduced by more data, but what are you going to do with it? Get some batteries at the 7-11, put them in, screw it shut and slap it on whatever you want to track.”

Kurkowski says these small units help him sleep better at night, but nothing remedies the sick feeling he gets whenever he’s pulled up to his shop, and the garage door is broken in. He stresses he doesn’t live in a bad area — NASCAR driver Kyle Busch lives not far from him. Theft happens even in the wealthy areas, he says.

“Most thieves are smarter than you think,” he says. “The only way you can really protect yourself is with solid insurance.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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