INDUSTRY INSIDER | July 11, 2024

‘I Put a GPS on it’: Virginia Man Tracks Down Stolen Construction Tools

Original Source:WTOP News

A pile of stolen tools recovered by police in Howard County, Maryland. (Courtesy Howard County police)

A Sterling, Virginia, contractor was the first victim identified in a string of robberies in which thieves stole over $3 million worth of construction equipment.

Howard County Police said the “enormous” investigation began in January after the contractor had his equipment, which had a tracking device inside, stolen. The victim said he installed the GPS system after being targeted previously. He declined to share his name with WTOP out of fear the thieves would come back again.

The contractor first noticed the tools were missing from a work van when he arrived at a job ready to work, and ended up having to take the day off.

“I’m frustrated, but good thing I can buy [tools] again and keep going,” he told WTOP. “Most of the time, you never can get it back so I know when something gets lost, I know I need to buy it again.”

The victim said after he reported the missing equipment to police, he was forced to buy new tools at a cost of around $5,000. But because of the tracking system he installed, he was able to see where his stolen equipment was and decided to try to follow the tools.

He said he grew frustrated seeing his tools move around on the tracking system and decided to go to the Elkridge storage unit that led police to find over 15,000 stolen pieces of construction equipment. Officers eventually conducted search warrants on 12 total locations, 11 of which were in Howard County.

“I’m happy because I know they can find who did this. Someone rented the unit and put a name on it. I hope they can get arrested,” he said.

Howard County police recover construction tools

Police said no charges have been filed but they’ve identified at least 80 victims so far and said there could be hundreds, or even thousands, more. To try to find as many victims as possible, police have launched a website for people who’ve had their tools stolen to report it.“A lot of victims may not have filed a police report in the first place,” Seth Hoffman, a spokesman for Howard County Police, said. “When we contacted them, some of them were surprised their items were recovered. It may have happened years ago and ‘out of sight out of mind,’ but many of them were thankful because they didn’t expect to get them back.”=

To protect your tools, police recommend keeping equipment in a secure place, getting it engraved, using serial numbers and installing tracking devices.

At a press conference last Friday, Howard County Police Chief Gregory Der said, “This case sends a clear message — we will not tolerate this criminal enterprise and Howard County.”