How Thieves Think: Preventing Asset Theft
Fleet managers are in charge of assets that are expensive and valuable, whether these assets are cars, trucks, trailers, or the equipment and tools used by their industries. So, how do you keep those assets safe? Knowing your “enemy”–or in this case, a would-be thief—is one of the best ways you can be proactive about equipment and vehicle theft while your fleet is on the road. Reversing your point of view as a fleet manager will also help get you into the right mindset to reveal vulnerabilities in your security before any real thieves have a chance to take advantage of them.
Preventing asset theft by channeling your inner detective
To paint a picture of the type of perpetrators you should be wary of, start with a practice common among law enforcement: psychological profiling.
Psychological profiling is used to identify possible suspects mainly through mental, emotional, and personality characteristics. Once you start to think like a thief, you can begin to predict behaviors and take measures to prevent valuable tools, equipment, and vehicles from being stolen.
Think like a thief to protect your fleet
How do you walk a mile in a thief’s shoes? Let’s take a look at a portrait of a would-be thief and how you can use that knowledge to your advantage.
1. Thieves like to window shop
Visibility is a criminal’s best friend when it comes to scoping out potential opportunities for theft. Leaving valuables like laptops, handheld electronic devices, tools, or specialty equipment visible on a car seat or the bed of a truck is an open invitation.
Consider investing in tinted windows, especially on utility vehicles or vans that need to carry a variety of tools for onsite services.
Tools and equipment that need to be kept in fleet vehicles should be given specific, hidden storage areas. By assigning “homes” for everything of value, drivers can easily check that each item is in its rightful place.
2. They are most interested in making a quick buck
Thieves want to steal what they can sell for a profit. Construction equipment such as work trucks and trailers are popular targets for theft because of their high selling value.
Know the going rate for your assets. What is worth the most and popular to steal? These are the assets you want to take the most measures to protect. Part of the reason construction equipment is so vulnerable is that it does not always have serial numbers, making it hard for a purchaser to know whether it was stolen or not. Make sure property is clearly labeled or branded. Permanent identifiers will make it obvious an asset was stolen if a thief attempts to sell it, and thieves will understand beforehand that they will have to make an extra effort to get money for the asset.
3. Thieves are not risk takers
Thieves will do everything in their power to avoid the probability of getting caught. Therefore, if something looks like it’s relatively locked down with heavy duty locks and an alarm system, they won’t want to put in the extra effort to steal.
Park near populated areas. Stealing is usually too great of a risk if many witnesses are nearby. You should always leave valuables overnight in areas with lights where a thief would not feel comfortably concealed.
4. They know how to take advantage of an opportunity—planned or unplanned
The most common form of automotive theft is crime of opportunity. “Smash and grab” theft happens quickly and as soon as thieves realize they can take what they want and run. If valuables are in plain sight, a thief will immediately be able to decide to steal.
Hold your fleet drivers responsible for hiding valuables out of sight. Make sure they have good habits and that they are not giving thieves any opportunities.
In most fleets, drivers are financially responsible for the vehicle and any personal items left in the vehicle, and drivers may be terminated if a vehicle was stolen due to employee negligence (i.e., keys left in the ignition). Make your drivers aware that there are consequences if they give thieves easy opportunities.
5. Thieves don’t like to get caught
This one might seem a little obvious, but it’s integral to understanding how thieves think and how you can deter their efforts. As a fleet manager, make it a hassle to steal from you and get away with it. You should regularly catalog your equipment and account for everything—but when you find out something is missing, you also need a course of action to address the problem and hopefully catch your thief.
Have a recovery system in place. What does this mean, exactly? The ideal recovery system involves using GPS fleet tracking technology for all of your assets. Further, the GPS vehicle tracking system device should be concealed and difficult for a thief to notice and deactivate. As much as you want to be a hero with GPS tracking software, don’t try chasing after the thieves yourself—report the theft to law enforcement. Reporting asset thefts is something you should do whether you have a GPS tracking technology system or not. Finally, you should have adequate insurance so you are prepared for the worst-case scenario in which an asset is stolen and cannot be recovered.
Don’t wait around for theft to happen to your fleet—take measures to prevent it before it can. If your security is lax, thieves will inevitably find a way to exploit it. Arm your assets with as many theft deterrents and recovery systems as you can. The more measures you take to ensure the protection of your assets, the more difficult it will be for thieves to exploit holes in your security. This is what is known as the layered approach to theft prevention. Now that you’ve been inside the mind of a thief, you can figure out what these layers should be and start protecting your fleet.