Mowing-equipment thefts hurt area businesses
NORTH PORT — A recent theft of Brian Aleshire’s lawn-mowing equipment, tools and truck nearly put him out of business.
The North Port man said it’s not just him, but many others in the lawn-care profession in the region who were victimized by thieves who “will stop at nothing to steal equipment.”
“My truck and trailer were locked when they robbed me,” Aleshire said of the August theft of more than $8,000 in equipment. “They used a slim jim to open my pickup, which was eventually found near (Interstate) 4 in Hillsborough County. There was hundred of dollars in damage to the truck, which I just got back. The trailer and all of my mowing equipment was gone.”
When Aleshire went to an area lawn-maintenance dealer to replace his equipment in August, he learned several business owners were robbed in Charlotte and Sarasota counties.
“The dealer said he had 16 mowers and sold all but four after more than 10 other lawn guys had been ripped off,” he said. “One guy was mowing in front of a house in Rotonda, and when he went back to his trailer his other mower was gone. It was taken in broad daylight.”
According to the North Port Police Department, there have been seven stolen vehicle/trailer cases containing lawn equipment since January, and four trailer burglaries during that time period.
“Locks are being cut off of the trailers and ignitions are being punched on the vehicles,” NPPD Capt. Tony Sirianni said. “The days of the week are varied, as well as the locations throughout the city. There have been several recoveries in the Hillsborough County area. Sarasota County is also experiencing a rash of these same types of crimes with their vehicles/trailers being recovered in the Hillsborough County area.”
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reported four burglaries in the past few months, but said there was a considerable amount more last year.
According to NPPD Sgt. Pamela Jernigan, suspects have been developed in these cases.
“We are currently running down leads,” she said. “We are working with the other agencies that are involved. The vehicles and trailers all seem to be locked.”
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office reported 19 lawn-equipment thefts from Aug. 10 to Sept. 1.
“Burglary is a crime of opportunity,” said Dale Phillips, CCSO crime specialist. “Access to a building or vehicle, and the look and feel of a location, is something a thief will consider. If there is a visible alarm system, it can be a deterrent. If a vehicle is under a carport, it’s fair game even if it’s locked. Sadly, some business owners are getting ripped off the day after they replaced their equipment.”
Phillips recommends lawn-care equipment owners install alarms with silent signals, have tools and equipment etched with identifiable markings, and have the items photographed.
Jernigan said to prevent the trailers from being broken into, people should back them up directly against the garage door so there’s no room to open the trailer door.
“Install motion lights and/or make sure outside lighting is left on during the night,” she said. “Install anti-theft devices to the truck, such as alarms or steering-wheel locks.”
Aleshire resorted to heavy-duty chains to secure his truck and trailer.
“I use three chains now,” he said. “It’s awful to have to pay $10,000 for new equipment. It’s also not good to have too many insurance claims. It’s a shame local business owners have to suffer in these hard times. Police are catching some people and returning some items.”