Recently there has been a surge in a type of fraud that hasn’t been seen for a few years. The scam involves unauthorized PO’s being used to rent or purchase equipment.

Suspects purposely hit a few stores in one county then hit again in another jurisdiction or county. They are working the system and banking on the fact that the victims and those on the “right side” of the law, won’t be communicating with each other.

One very important role that the Crime Prevention Program of Southern California (CPP) plays is that of a liaison between our members and law enforcement. Our member’s thefts are shared directly with our contacts in law enforcement throughout the region, putting their incident front and center on the radar of those officers directly involved in construction theft.

Recently a detective was referred to me for assistance: He asked if I knew of anyone else working a case that involved the use of fraudulent PO’s to rent or purchase equipment. While his case took place in Riverside County, I would ask around for information on any cases in the Southern California region that had used the same or similar scam. If anything came across my radar in the Western US, I’d be sure to share that with him, too.

CPP sent out a bulletin asking our members to contact us if they had been a victim of this scam. A follow up phone call to one member proved very informative. It turns out, this member company had experienced an incident involving this same scam. While their thefts took place in Los Angeles County, they occurred in the same month as the Riverside County incident and even involved the use of fraudulent PO’s taken from the same construction company as the one used in the Riverside County thefts. In the LACounty thefts, these fraudulent PO’s were used to steal equipment and supplies from a multitude of companies. (Watch for updates on this and other cases in CPP member bulletins.)

The need to tie together cases from multiple jurisdictions can help give law enforcement the much-needed information to facilitate the arrest and prosecution of the thieves, thereby reducing similar thefts in the future. In many cases, smaller crimes often lead to larger ones and the more criminal charges you can pin on any one individual, the higher the chances can become for a successful prosecution.

So what does all this mean to you? Crime is out there. Unfortunately, the reality is you are going to be a victim of a crime at some point in time. Our first line of defense it to do all we can to prevent a theft from occurring. It’s also important to keep in mind that the steps you take when you experience a theft can make quite a difference in the likelihood of a recovery and a notable difference in the reduction of crime in your area. Reporting your theft, of any nature, is important because it:

  • Is required for insurance purposes
  • Increases the chance of any items taken being recovered (if something isn’t reported as stolen and it’s located, there’s no record of it in the law enforcement stolen system and no reason to think it isn’t already with the rightful owner)
  • Helps law enforcement officers with current and ongoing investigations
  • Can lead to reduced crime in your area
  • Helps identify appropriate funding for law enforcement resources
  • Can help identify crime patterns
  • Establishes lines of communication with local law enforcement

When reported, CPP members’ thefts are shared with our law enforcement and National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) contacts, enabling more targeted information sharing and a “leg up” on increasing your chances of recovery.

We all know that in this day and age, it takes so much more to actually put someone behind bars when they commit a crime. Back in my day, if a person broke the law, they went to jail. (And gas was $.35 a gallon and I walked to school, uphill, both ways!) Nowadays, the truth is overcrowded jails, decreased public resources, poor communication, legislation, etc., all make it incredibly difficult – and frustrating – for victims, law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys to feel like they’re having any effect on crime.

The Good Ol’ Days might be a thing of the past, but that’s all the more reason we need to stick together and encourage communication so that we’re taking an active role in ending these types of crimes. Because, “Together, We Make a Difference!”

By Melissa Somers, Executive Director CPP SoCal