Equipment theft could be costing owners $1 billion a year and the problem is growing as crime rings get into the act, according to National Equipment Register, New York City.

A new study by the security firm found that skid-steers remain the most commonly stolen construction item at about 23% of all incidents, followed by backhoes at 20% and loaders at 12%. Texas, North Carolina, Florida, California and Georgia have the most thefts, accounting for 33% of all stolen machines. "There is more equipment in some states than others [and] I think that is the overriding factor," says NER President David Shillingford.

SOURCE National Equipment Register, Insurance Services Office
* % of all insurance claims for equipment.

NER tapped its database of more than 8 million pieces of live equipment and statistics from the Insurance Services Office, Jersey City, N.J. Theft was the most frequently reported loss, beating collision, fire, vandalism and other claims by at least 20%. Theft costs fleets at least $300 million and possibly more than $1 billion annually. Accurate numbers are elusive because many incidents are unreported, says NER.

Stealing equipment is "a very low-risk crime," says Shillingford. "It is worth a lot of money, it is difficult to secure physically and the thief knows that he will get away with it." He claims more professional crime rings are entering the market, especially in the top five theft states.