Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

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Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby sgtbull » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:00 pm

For those of you who don't know me, I'm an avid tractor restorer/collector. I have been for nearly 25 yrs. I'm also a M/Sgt. with the Illinois State Police, and have been an officer for over 25 yrs. The two mix pretty well, but that's another story.
On the topic of stolen tractors, equipment, tools, etc, there are a couple of important points I feel I ought to make that fall into three categories:

Sounds simple, but there is more to it than can be covered here. Just be aware that people will steal large items like tractors and equipment simply because they are actually very easy to sell and very difficult to trace. Sheds that are unattended for a long time, especially those that are remotely located, are very vulnerable.
Keep windows covered. Better yet, don't have any. If they can't see in your shed, they won't know what's there to steal.
Don't let "causual" acquaintances know what you have. Many thieves scout out an area with the pretense of wanting to buy something from you. They see what you have, make a mental note, and come back later... without you.
Keep stuff locked. Park stuff in front of shed doors. Remember, the best lock in the world is only as good as the closest window pane.
POST your property. Most states require prior notice in order to enforce "criminal trespass charges", especially to outbuildings or other real property.
Fake video cameras (if you can't afford real ones) are surprisingly effective. I've talked to several thieves over the years and a re-occurring theme is they leave videotaped premises alone. Even signs saying they're videotaped can help.
Know your neighbors. Watch their stuff. Make sure they watch yours. (unless, of course, your neighbors are theives.)
Have a dog. Not a biting dog... just a barking dog. Thieves don't want attention.
LOCKED Driveway cables or gates. Thieves don't like to park on the road where their license plates can be seen. Don't make it easy for them to hide their vehicles while they break into your buildings.
Security lights... again, they don't want to be seen.

A cub is a cub is a cub. Especially when the serial tag is gone or defaced. You must have something that makes your cub identifiable. Pictures are great. I've matched up photographs of a stolen tractor with the recovered tractor by rust patterns, paint discoloration and scratches.
Record serial numbers, engine numbers or other unique identifying numbers, but remember, those can be removed or defaced. (Although they look nice, changing serial tags for replacement tags is actually illegal in most states. Just not enforced. The availablility of "repro"tags make it that much easier for a tractors identity to be disguised.)
There are many suggestions that make your tractor identifiable, and most are fine. Just consider how easy it may be for your identifying mark to be found and "erased." Stamping in hard to find locations is a great idea IF the investigating agency can connect YOU to the tractor in the first place, so YOU can show them the identifier... which leads to the next section

Heres an example. I'm patrolling and stop some schmuck for a lighting violation on his trailer that has on it a really nice CUB tractor. He seems nervous, and he and the passenger give conflicting stories on where the tractor came from, is going, or whatever. I'm naturally suspicious. Say I know NOTHING about tractors. (Not uncommon in the police world, lets face it.) I DO know that all equipment is supposed to have a PIN, or Product Identification Number. Don't confuse that with a VIN, Vehicle Identification Number. PINS are NOT recorded in any governmental data base, because, tractors and implements generally are not registered or titled in the US. I cannot get diddly squat as far as owner information from a PIN. (Granted, some manufacturers can track that down thru sales/service records, but that takes time, and I dont have that kind of time on a traffic stop. There are constitutional limitations on how long I can detain someone.) The only thing I can get is what is called an NCIC "hit", IF the serial # has been entered as stolen , and IF there is still a serial tag on the tractor.
If I can't make that connection, there is no normal manner I'd be able to prove the tractor is stolen without first hand knowledge of a theft, the ability to contact the owner, and the ability to get the owner there quickly to ID the tractor. (Back to the reasonable detention period thing.) Mere suspicion is not enough to detain someone more than what is considered a "reasonable length of time.)
Lets say there is no serial tag. Me being the efficient officer will start looking for one, any place I might think to find one. Here's where IDENTIFYING MARKS become important. IF I find a DRIVER"S LICENSE NUMBER stamped or engraved on the tractor, that gives me a direction to go to attempt to contact the owner. In order for this to work, there must be three things. 1. A LEGIBLE, COMPLETE number and 2. The license state. I must have those two things to quickly identify who the number belongs to. 3. A GOOD address associated to the DL #. If you've moved and not notified your DMV of an address change, I may not be able to find your PHONE # quickly.
Social Security Numbers are USELESS. Police agencies cannot access SS files under ordinary circumstances, and when they do, it TAKES TIME.
Phone numbers often change, so may not be a good idea, although it wouldn't hurt to be there in ADDITION to a dl # and state.
Stamping is preferable to engraving for forensic reasons that I will not divulge, as there is no reason to tell people how to defeat that. We need to know that, the general public does not. (Why I hate shows like NCIS or the like... they are "primers for criminals.")
Put the # somewhere it is likely to be found by an officer looking for a PIN... criminals usually don't look beyond the serial plate. If they remove or deface that, they usually figure they're in the clear. A hidden identifier is just that... hidden... from the officer too. You should have BOTH one easily found, and one in a "secret" location..

There are constant reports of tractors being stolen, although more are modern tractors than antiques, but the same rules apply to both. I"m actually surprise there aren't more thefts at shows of entire tractors, as someone could pretty easily watch the owner go elsewhere, get on their tractor and drive it away to a remotely located trailer. I prefer to make my tractors "unstartable" at shows by removing rotor bugs, switching coil wires w/ plug wires, or any of a number of other ways and besides it being a good safety practice, it might discourage the drive away thief.
Just my two cents worth.
I've never met a tractor I didn't like....but I have found some that were greatly annoying....

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby daddydip » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:17 pm

Excellent post Bull, i will be following a few of your leads.

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby bob in CT » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:00 pm

Excellent post. I hope this is archived as this advice is timeless.

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby Don McCombs » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:04 pm

Outstanding information. :wink:
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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby Song » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:09 pm


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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby Rick Prentice » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:11 pm

Thank You,

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby dgrapes59 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:30 pm

Great information!

Thanks for sharing,

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby bythepond88 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:54 pm

Thank you, Sergeant. I agree, this is Cub Tip material.
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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby Mr E » Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:34 pm

Excellent information.

Thank you.

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby jsharp1071 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:05 pm

Thanks for taking the time to explain the basics to us. I think we all benefited.


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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby VinceD » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:00 pm

Thanks, Sarge, for the great info. :D :D

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby ricky racer » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:04 pm

Just another thought. If you have an Allis-Chalmers tractor and it is stolen, just wait a couple days, they'll bring it back!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby Rick Spivey » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:09 pm

Great post, Sarge! I appreciate all the tips...
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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby Bill Hudson » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:25 pm


Thanks for the insight. Very useful.

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Re: Stolen tractors... a police viewpoint

Postby dirtyred » Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:42 pm

ricky racer wrote:Just another thought. If you have an Allis-Chalmers tractor and it is stolen, just wait a couple days, they'll bring it back!! :lol: :lol: :lol:


hey i got two! wheres the love?you must like green over orange :mrgreen:
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