NER provides database for law enforcement and more
Editor’s note: The National Equipment Register (NER), Jersey City, N.J., has been providing equipment theft data and services to law enforcement, insurance companies and equipment rental professionals since 2001. NER has collaborated with the American Rental
Association (ARA) to help members combat equipment theft by offering the opportunity to list 1,000 pieces of mobile, off-road
equipment on NER’s HELPTech database at no cost through the ARA website, through the NER site or by calling NER at 866-663-7872. Ryan Shepherd, NER’s general manager, recently spoke with Rental Management to offer insight into NER’s history, theft-prevention services and work with ARA.
RM: How did NER get its start?
Ryan Shepherd: NER has been in existence since 2001, and since we put together our mission statement on day one, theft prevention has been part of our core business. Our first undertaking was to gather useful equipment data and store it in a central location so police departments could have access to it on the spot rather than tracking it down on their own. We collected data from several sources including various manufacturers, rental companies and insurance companies. The next thing we did was educate law enforcement personnel, training them to call us and use our database for information to help with an investigation. Over time, our database has evolved based on feedback about what was valuable to our various end users.
RM: Why did NER develop a business relationship with ARA?
Shepherd: While collecting information on rental fleets, we were looking for organizations that had a lot of data. Since ARA has information about equipment as well as resources for reaching a broad audience that might be in need of our services, this relationship seemed like an obvious fit.
RM: What are the more commonly used services you offer?
Shepherd: That depends on the type of end user needing our services. Law enforcement often uses NER for correct equipment identification assistance. Since there is no standard serial number format in use across brands, running serial numbers correctly can be complicated and result in misinformation. Insurers frequently contact us to complete the story behind an insurance claim on a piece of stolen equipment.
The rental community uses NER’s registration services to place equipment identification information into our database, making it easier for law enforcement to identify an owner or locate a piece of stolen equipment. That provides a tremendous advantage for police if someone’s acting suspiciously during a traffic stop or if something looks out of place at an odd hour of the day. Through this service, about 30 percent of recoveries NER has assisted with have come before the victim is even aware the piece of equipment is missing. This is one more tool to use to identify a theft in progress and limit the complications for the victim.
RM: How do you address specific “trends” in equipment theft, such as switching PIN plates?
Shepherd: We spend a lot of time on education and training. On this particular issue, our analysts are knowledgeable enough to be able to recall what type of adhesive, screw or drive nail each manufacturer uses for PIN plates in addition to the size and look of specific plates. When law enforcement calls NER, an analyst can explain exactly what to look for and what might raise a red flag for any given piece of equipment. In addition, we know where secondary numbers are and we spend a tremendous amount of time indexing those for future use. We also see a lot of rental customers who steal a pin plate to put on another machine in order to sell it, so we flag those numbers in our database as well.
RM: How have you seen NER change over the years?
Shepherd: The biggest change I’ve seen is adding product development to what was previously a data-driven company focused solely on aggregating data and disseminating it to those who would find it useful. In recent years, we’ve begun developing and offering telematics and risk prevention products that are useful to people in the equipment rental industry. Ideas for products such as IRONwatch and IRONcheck come from our end users and what they’ve said they need.
RM: How do those two services address the needs of NER users?
Shepherd: IRONwatch is a GPS tracking device that is turned on only when a theft has been reported. Since we’ve removed a lot of the machine diagnostic data reporting from the device, we’re able to offer this service without the monthly fee most other services charge. This has been very well received by the equipment rental industry and has located more than 99 percent of the stolen equipment on which it is installed.
IRONcheck is a vehicle history report that protects customers purchasing used equipment from unintentionally buying stolen equipment. In addition to preventing the sale, if the report reveals stolen equipment, we notify law enforcement personnel so they can address the situation. Our ultimate goal with this product is to reduce equipment theft and increase the risk for thieves to sell stolen equipment. Right now, it’s possible for thieves to steal a piece of equipment on Friday, sell it at auction on Saturday and have their money before the victim even knows the equipment is gone. We need to put an end to that.
RM: In addition to expanding services, NER also has expanded geographically. Why did you start an operation in Canada?
Shepherd: We’ve always supported Canadian law enforcement on an ad hoc basis. The equipment is the same as what is used in the United States and many of the Canadian insurance companies have sister companies in the U.S. as well, so it really made sense. We’re starting over up there as far as education and data collection are concerned, but aside from a few legal differences, it really wasn’t that difficult to get started.
RM: Does NER have plans to expand into additional international markets?
Shepherd: We do have ideas about expanding beyond North America into other areas. Theft happens throughout the world, so our solutions and techniques are transferrable. A lot of the bigger equipment manufacturers are global as well, so they’re selling the same products around the world and we wouldn’t be learning from scratch. These are only ideas right now, though, and in the meantime, we will continue to focus on education, data collection, and equipment recovery in the United States and Canada.