Nearly $400,000 worth of construction equipment gone missing from multiple jobsites in the upper Mid-Atlantic has been recovered, thanks to coordinated police work and a sharp-eyed aerial drone.
A joint investigation by state police in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware suggested that the same suspect had taken the pilfered equipment to a location near Elkton, Md. Unable to quickly establish probable cause to enter the expansive property based on ground surveillance alone, the Cecil County, Md., sheriff’s office flew a camera-equipped drone around the perimeter. Video from the drone’s flight revealed a number of pieces of construction equipment behind a large structure.
A sheriff’s office spokesperson says that while no warrant was necessary to perform the aerial surveillance, the drone video was sufficient for investigators to obtain search and seizure warrants for the property. There, they found 17 pieces of construction equipment confirmed as having been stolen, including excavators, skid steers, trailers, and heavy tools.
The most expensive item was a John Deere 50G excavator, valued at $60,000 and reported missing from a jobsite in Delaware. A search of the suspect’s residence uncovered keys to the stashed equipment and lead to the discovery of three additional missing machines at a separate location. In all, approximately $394,000 worth of equipment was recovered.
Police have arrested a suspect whose "name is being withheld at the request of investigators as this is an ongoing involving multiple law enforcement agencies," according to the sheriff's department, and they expect to identify other suspected collaborators.
Investigators still are trying to identify the origins of eight pieces of equipment, including a John Deere 270 skid steer and a Kubota KX121-3 excavator, each valued at $40,000. The Cecil County sheriff's office can be reached at 410-996-5500.