Focus on: Surveying Equipment thefts

To most innocent passers-by, the sight of surveyors at work looks like a few people in high-vis jackets gathered around a tiny camera. Unfortunately, to light-fingered opportunists, the sight of surveying equipment on a street or site represents a chance to make a quick few quid.

The theft of surveying equipment has increased sharply in recent years and as the industry takes measures to stay one step ahead of the thieves, it’s clear there is still a fair bit to be done.

A stark reminder of the problem facing surveying firms was served up in December when thieves in a small Lancashire town managed to make off with £60,000 worth of surveying equipment in a brazen move and it could have been worse.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported that a car pulled up beside a pavement, a person jumped out, snatched the surveying equipment and the car sped off. Hours later, a similar attempt on a nearby street was thwarted but the thieves did manage to knock over the equipment, damaging it.

Even when equipment isn’t out in the open, it can still be at risk of theft, as a team of archaeologists found out in Warwickshire in January.

They had £13,000 worth of surveying equipment stolen from their van while they were in A&E in Warwick hospital.

During a dig, one of the team injured her ankle and while the rest of the group took her to hospital for treatment, their van had been broken into while in the hospital car park and the equipment stolen.

What are the costs?

In a recent survey commissioned by manufacturers Topcon, it was found that 40 per cent of surveyors have been affected by lost or stolen equipment.

The average cost of replacing stolen, lost or damaged equipment was discovered to be £10,000 which can put a significant dent in the profits of any firm. It’s not only the cost of replacing equipment that can hurt a certain company, but also lost business due to time taken to get new equipment.

The survey also discovered the steps many surveyors take to protect their equipment, with an alarming amount of them doing little more than locking their gear up overnight.

While 85 per cent, they kept their equipment up, less than half employed security staff and under 25 per cent use ID tags for their hardware. Only one in five used remote tracking while the majority did not use security software to look after their equipment. While such measures won’t guard against the kind of opportunist theft our friends in Lancashire suffered, it will go some way to reducing insurance premiums and making sure your equipment is safe and sound while you’re tucked up in bed.

What can be done?

Although theft of surveying equipment is widespread, and becoming more daring, the industry is striking back.

The Survey Association (TSA) has teamed up with security and crime detection company SmartWater to tackle the scourge of equipment theft.

The arrangement involves SmartWater sharing details of thefts with police, which have already led to follow-ups. As part of a three-year deal, SmartWater are collecting data on equipment theft and have already laid bare the stark cost of such activities to TSA.

The value of surveying equipment stolen in the months between September 2017 and February 2018 was put at £18 million. The means that thieves are making off with an average of £300,000 worth of equipment every month.

Information collected by SmartWater allows them to compile monthly reports for TSA members. These reports include incidents of theft, the cost and if those incidents are part of a particular trend. They have also been able to identify certain hotspots where thefts are most prevalent. Reports also contain advice on security and how best to prevent a company becoming the victims of crime.

While a greater rate of reporting surveying equipment theft can go a long way to clamping down on the trend, companies can take their own measures to prevent them being targets for thieves.

Investing in greater security can prove effective, with even more sophisticated technology available to keep expensive equipment out of the hands of criminals.

As the Topcon-commissioned survey revealed, simply locking up equipment overnight may not be enough to protect it.

However, anyone is in danger of suffering theft or damage to their equipment, so it is vital to have surveying equipment insurance that suits your needs.

Insurance implications

One thing any surveying company must consider when taking out insurance is making sure equipment is covered wherever it is. A busy surveyor will need to transport and store equipment on a daily basis, so it must be covered at the company’s main premises, while in a van and when out on site.

Surveyors can take out cover to protect their equipment while it is unattended and even when it is in locked premises. Surveying equipment insurance can also provide new for old replacement cover, help with the cost of hiring equipment on a temporary basis and for loss of earnings due to damaged or stolen equipment.

With increased reporting and information-gathering of thefts and sound insurance cover for surveying companies, the outlook is beginning to look better.