Preventing Theft of Landscape Equipment

Preventing Theft of Landscape Equipment

Laura M. Miller, Tarrant County Extension Agent Commercial Horticulture

The theft of landscape equipment is often thought of as a crime of opportunity.  Equipment is outdoors, there is no one around, or at least no one who is paying attention, and without much planning a would-be thief can easily grab an easily transportable item that can easily be sold or pawned.

While this is clearly larceny, defined in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away (which was probably originally mostly about horses but could now refer to riding mowers) of property from the possession, or constructive possession of another person, it doesn’t include any other crimes such as burglary or even trespass.  This can result in law enforcement agencies tending to prioritize other types of crimes that both they and the public see as more significant.

A fence destroyed by thieves stealing equipment.

Large equipment is still at risk. Thieves can go through anything with enough time.

But what if the piece of equipment was 40 feet long by 13 feet high and weighed in at around 75,000 lbs. with an estimated value of $370,000?  That’s what went missing from the City of Fort Worth Rolling Hills compound the last weekend of October 2017 when a Morbark tub grinder was taken from a fenced area.  While the tub grinder was the largest and most expensive piece of equipment taken, Forestry Crew Leader Will Pemberton reports that after a 20 plus year period with no significant losses of equipment to theft, the compound was broken into five times between April and December of 2017. In addition to the giant tub grinder, on different occasions thieves cut through fences and took leaf blowers, string trimmers, chain saws, tools, and even a 4-ton pallet jack.  Items were taken from vehicles and from buildings, and the previously mentioned fences along with locks and toolboxes were damaged.

These thefts occurred on weekends and no one was at the worksite, but two employees of Outdoor Inspirations Lawn and Landscape in Snellville, GA were on the job in April when they noticed someone trying to open the door of an enclosed truck.  The thwarted thief fired four rounds at them before leaving empty handed.  This serious threat to employee safety should make everyone take landscape equipment theft a little more seriously.

Steps to Safeguard Equipment and Employees:

  • Keep an accurate inventory. For each piece of equipment, take a photo and record:
    • Serial or VIN number—if none exists, engrave a number
    • Make and Model
    • Date and location of purchase
    • Warranty information
    • Authorized users
  • Use security lighting, fencing, and signage. Under Texas Penal Code § 30.05 the definition of criminal trespass is more complex than the simple notion of being on someone else’s land. One way to commit the offense is to enter upon another’s property even though one has notice that the entry is forbidden. Notice can be given fence or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders, or in the form of sign(s) posted on the property or at the entrance to the building, reasonably likely to be noticed, indicating that entry is forbidden. Readily visible purple paint marks no less than eight inches in length and one inch in width and placed 3-5 ft. from the ground on trees or posts spaced no more than 100 feet apart can also be used.  Criminal trespass is normally a Class B misdemeanor with a fine up to $2,000 and a jail term up to 180 days.  Security lighting isn’t notification, but it makes it easier to see those signs.
  • Store as much as possible inside a building. That makes it less visible to those opportunistic passersby. It also means that anyone who enters the building intending to steal is committing the crime of burglary before taking anything.  Remove batteries from battery operated equipment and recharge or store them separately from the equipment they power.  Have visible, designated spots for everything so that missing items are immediately noticiable.
  • Have employees wear uniforms. Uniforms make it easy to spot a person who is out of place.
  • Have equipment wear uniforms. Steve McLaughlin of Greenscape in Fort Worth paints every item from a 6-inch screwdriver to 6-foot trailer with Greenscape’s signature green and yellow stripes.  While a little spray paint won’t necessarily prevent theft, it does make stolen items easy to identify.

If it has wheels, use extra caution, because thieves will make them roll.  According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center,  43% of equipment thefts are riding mowers or garden tractors, with an additional 17% in the loader category.  If a thief can steal something that can be used to steal something else, it is especially valuable.  Front end loaders are often stolen so that they can be used to steal ATM machines.  Derek Whisenand at Whiz-Q Stone in Fort Worth has experience with this unfortunate occurrence.  Trailers, especially fully loaded landscape trailers, can also make for extremely efficient thievery.  Trailer hitch locks are relatively inexpensive and effective.  GPS tracking devices are becoming as widely available and inexpensive as trailer hitch locks.  Because many lots of equipment comes with generic keys, including tub grinders, consider rekeying or adding and additional level of security for ignition.

2018 Tree Conference

2018 Tree Conference

Just Announced 

2018 Urban Forestry Conference

February 1, 2018

Arlington Convention Center
1200 Ballpark Way
Arlington, TX. 76011

 The Crosstimbers Urban Forestry Council and Trinity Blacklands Urban Forestry Council are teaming up with North Texas Nursery Growers for the 2018 conference.  This collaboration will allow attendees to continue to have the top notch class that everyone is accustomed to and access to North Texas Nursery Growers trade show.  More information coming soon.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer: The Ash Nightmare

By Rachel Murray

Many US cities are preparing for an Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis (EAB) invasion. The EAB is native to northern Asia, but was discovered in Michigan and Ontario in 2002. The adult EAB has a bright outer metallic green color, with copper colored abdominal. It is roughly half an inch long, and only one eighth of inch wide. The EAB larva is milky white with bell shaped segments. Since it is discovery it has spread to over 25 states and most of eastern Canada. The invasion continues to move west. Already 70 million ash trees have been infected and there is a chance of losing a large percentage ash trees in North America. East Texas has already been affected by the EAB. There is a chance that EABs will travel to the DWF metroplex.

You can easily identify if your tree has been infected or not. When an EAB larva bores in to an ash tree, they create a winding S shape path, called galleries. These galleries become visible when the bark begins to split. If your tree is infected, callous tissue will start to form causing the bark to become weak. Another thing to look out for is D shape holes. After they become an adult, the EAB exits the tree and create the hole. You can recognize if your tree has been infected by checking for the S shaped galleries and D shape holes. A citizen can also observe if the tree has been infected by watching for  epicormic shoots.  Epicormic shoots are small shoots that grow from previously dormant branches. If you can identify these factors on your tree, it is likely it has been infected and needs to be treated.

There is multiple ways for you to prevent the invasion of EAB. Most time if an ash tree gets infected it will die in 2-3 years. At this time it would be helpful for you to remove your tree and replace it with another species.  As a citizen you can also spray/inject pesticides for your ash tree. You will have to do this annually, but most the time is will protect your trees from the EAB. To reduce the spread of EAB larvae, do not bring any firewood or ash wood into the area. Even after a tree is cut down the EAB larva can survive and continue to infect the area. Also when you do store firewood, be sure to always keep it away from existing trees, in case of any other pests.

Being observant of signs and knowing the prevention’s can help us stay protected from the emerald Ash Borer.

Picture credits:

Arbor Day Foundation

Forestry Scholarship

Forestry Scholarship

Every year the Cross Timber’s Urban Forester Council helps student fulfill there forestry career dreams by giving scholarships.  We give out 2 scholarships in total for $1000 each.  Each scholarship recipient is required to complete an application that states need, forestry goals, and how they plan on helping the urban forest in Texas.


The following is a letter from one of our recipients.

May 3, 2017

Mr. Gareth Harrier
Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council
11376 Kline Dr.
Dallas, TX 75229

Dear Mr. Gareth Harrier,

I am sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of the Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council Scholarship. Thank you for your generosity, which has allowed me to focus on my course load without worrying about financial matters.

As I complete my education at Stephen F. Austin University, I am very thankful for receiving your thoughtful gift. Because of your scholarship, I will achieve my goal of a college degree in urban forestry.

Thank you again for your thoughtful and generous gift.


Laura Glenn

Senior – Urban Forestry

2017 Urban Forestry Conference

2017 Urban Forestry Conference


The Crosstimbers Urban Forestry Council and Trinity Blacklands Urban Forestry Council would like to thank The Summit and the City of Grand Prairie for hosting our 2017 Urban Forestry Conference.

This was a great conference with almost 200 in attendance, 14 sponsors and 6 speakers.

For Conference Details Click here

Thank you to all of our speakers

Elden LeBrun with Bartlett Tree Care, Guy LeBlanc with Arbor Vitae Tree Care, Dave Appel with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Darrell Downey with Engineered Watering Solutions, Matt Klippstein with Husqvarna and John Giedraitis with ISAT.

We would also like to thank all of our sponsors, who make this conference possible.




Arbor Vitae

Tree Care

Guy LeBlanc