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Target for thieves: Dickinson police seeing construction site theft of tools, trailers and even heavy equipment

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Crews work at the site of a new senior housing project as the sun sets in west Dickinson on Monday afternoon. The Dickinson Police Department and the Stark County Sheriff’s Office have seen periodic thefts from constructions sites in the area, especially trailers. Often times pricey equipment is sold for drug money, Dickinson Police Detective Terry Oestreich said.

Periodically, the Dickinson Police Department will receive a report of a theft from a construction site.  Often, a large piece of expensive specialized equipment will disappear or, in a recent case, a whole trailer full of supplies.

These thefts are often perpetrated by individuals wishing to sell the valuable equipment and are sometimes employees, Detective Terry Oestreich said. The thieves are stealing the equipment to sell, and not for their personal use.

“A lot of it is drug-related issues,” Oestreich said. “Where the workers are needing money to buy drugs.”

The thefts are reflective of the large amount of construction in the area. The trailers are particularly tempting for thieves, Oestreich said.

“I think they’re stealing both for the trailer and also tools and supplies that are in these trailers,” Oestreich said. “Trailers are usually sitting around areas where there’s building going on, which is pretty much all over town. They’re just prime targets for thieves right now.”

More than half the thefts are recovered, Oestreich said. Much of it is recovered in western North Dakota, but stolen items can also travel.

“One case that I worked on, it goes from Grand Forks to Dickinson,” Oestreich said.

With growth taking place outside city limits, the Stark County Sheriff’s Office has also dealt with its fair share of equipment theft along with the construction boom, Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said.

“We get a few every once in a while,” Tuhy said. “We try to be visible out there, but we do get a few construction thefts and storage unit thefts.”

In an effort to keep valuables from being stolen, crews should secure trailers by locking not only its contents with a thick padlock, but by locking the hitch and, if necessary, removing a tire, Oestreich said.

“It’s an inconvenience, but lock your trailers, lock your hitches, use the type of padlock that’s harder to cut with a bolt cutter,” Oestreich said. “Don’t let these trailers sit any longer than you have to in an unsecured area. If you’re staying in a motel, consider taking that trailer along with you.”

Lighting can be a big deterrent for thieves, Tuhy said.

“Keep it under lock and key and have the area well-lit,” Tuhy said.

Most of the equipment is sold within a network that thieves know of and does not end up in pawn shops, Oestreich said.

“If someone approaches you to buy tools, if it’s a good deal, it’s probably too good to be true,” Oestreich said. “Be careful when you buy tools like that because if it turns out to be stolen, you could lose your tools.”

If a theft does occur, having an inventory of tools, equipment and their corresponding serial numbers makes it easier to return stolen items to their rightful owner, Tuhy said.

Those who knowingly purchase stolen goods can be prosecuted along with the thief, according to North Dakota Century Code. The severity of the charge depends on the value of the stolen goods. It is a Class A felony to steal property or services greater than $50,000.

“If they see anything suspicious, please call us,” Oestreich said. “You’re not going to bother us. You never know when that tip can lead to something. Those tips from the public and the public’s help is very important to working these cases.”

To report possible thefts, call the Dickinson Police Department non-emergency line at 701-456-7759 or the Stark County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 701-456-7610.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206