September 5, 2023
Article Image

By Julia Harmsworth

A number of Landscape Ontario members have observed a rise in gas and electric equipment theft this year.

Landscape Ontario spoke with three landscaping and horticulture businesses who recently experienced significant thefts of both electric and gas-powered equipment. They all advised fellow businesses to invest in security systems, GPS tracking and lighting.

Insurance brokerage Marsh Canada confirmed in the last four years, businesses have reported over $700,000 in equipment theft losses, with the average loss valuing $17,000.

Adding to the stress on business owners, many of the individual items stolen are lower in value than the typical deductible — making it less viable for owners to submit claims.

Lindsay Drake Nightingale, owner of Yorkshire Garden Services Inc. in the Toronto area, incurred around $21,000 in damage and stolen goods to theft over the May long weekend.

The culprits smashed through her garage bay door and stole various gas and electric powered equipment, including battery packs, drills, reciprocating saws, chainsaws, blowers, and line trimmers — items Drake Nightingale notes can be sold quickly on Facebook Marketplace.

Drake Nightingale was without her garage for two weeks while it was fixed, which posed challenges for her business. She cites lost time and increased stress as the biggest impacts on her operations.

“It’s our busy season — like stupid busy,” said Drake Nightingale. “I’m a maintenance business. I need my garage.”

Drake Nightingale believes equipment theft has increased in the last year, from conversations with York Regional Police and her colleagues. Though the culprit was not caught, she hopes they will be in the future.

She installed a security system with cameras on her premises, which she hopes will deter future theft and help catch culprits. She also refrains from posting her shop’s interior — with the equipment — on social media.

"Marsh Canada confirmed in the last four years, businesses have reported over $700,000 in equipment theft losses, with the average loss valuing $17,000."

“What can you do? You try to not be as obvious,” said Drake Nightingale.

Jon Agg, co-owner of Pristine Property Maintenance in Ajax, Ont., made similar recommendations. He spoke to installing more cameras, motion-sensor lights, fences, trailer locks, GPS tracking on vehicles and equipment, and custom serial numbers on equipment.

Agg lost $50,000 to $60,000 in stolen equipment this year, including a Dingo, a catalytic converter, mowers, and line trimmers.

“Theft has always been there, but I think we’re starting to see it more and more prevalent now with the landscaping equipment and the catalytic converters in trucks,” said Agg.

Pristine Property Maintenance is large enough to recover from theft quickly, but Agg imagines thefts to smaller businesses are a different story.

Another landscaping business owner in Milton, Ont. — who prefers to remain unnamed — believes thieves are targeting whichever equipment is “most convenient and quick” to steal. He said the amount of theft in the last two years has been “outrageous.”

The owner estimates his business has incurred $40,000 worth of damage and stolen goods this year, from equipment theft and attempted vehicle theft.

Though the company recovered all their stolen vehicles, they incurred damage. Smaller tools like cut-off saws, concrete saws, chainsaws, generators, blowers, hedge trimmers and hammer drills — worth $500 to $2,000 each — are gone for good.

“It’s ugly out there. It’s not fun anymore,” said the owner.

The owner is hesitant to file insurance claims for the damaged vehicles because he believes his premiums will increase. He is disappointed in the police’s apparent inability to keep thieves in custody after arresting them, referring to the system as “a disaster.”

“All these thieves, whether they’re stealing cars or landscape equipment, they have no fear, they don’t care, and they know if they get caught — don’t worry about it. It’s nothing. They’re off.”

The business has a GPS tracking system on all their vehicles which allowed them to be recovered. The owner recommends other businesses implement a similar system to protect themselves from theft.

Marsh Canada recommends businesses log visitors in and out to ensure unauthorized individuals do not enter sites. They also suggest businesses keep sites well-lit, install motion-activated lighting, install surveillance equipment and video cameras, store all equipment keys in a secure location, store all machines at secure locations near job sites and disable machines onsite to discourage thieves.