Our publisher brought up the topic of branding our laptops recently after reading an article about a man who's making bank off the concept. Our publisher's intent was to promote our publication's identity, but I think the noticeable imprint has another purpose: theft prevention. An engraved logo might either deter a potential thief or perhaps aid in having the device returned to our headquarters if stolen and discovered.

This got me thinking about the epidemic of stolen equipment in the surveying profession. While no real concrete numbers exist for the number of instruments, accessories and the like stolen from the field, survey vehicles and offices, there are enough stories to indicate its seriousness.

Theft can be a major problem for those affected. Many firms rely on small inventories, and many sole proprietors have one-instrument operations. The cost associated with such loss can be worth much more than just the cost of the instruments-it can limit one's ability to work at all. And the headaches involved with notification, paperwork and retrieval are not pleasant. In some areas, firms don't want to send people to work in certain areas because of unsafe occurrences. Some stories include gunshots and tugs-of-war with thieves attempting to steal instruments and tripods from roadsides. This is leading some firms to charge security and safety fees to work in certain areas.

A good solution to the problem of theft is prevention. Having a solid prevention plan in place rather than scrambling to retrieve high-priced swiped items later is preferred. And just as you would protect your home, you should protect your office. In addition to having an alarm on my home that will ring right to the police should there be a break-in, we also prop a chair back under each doorknob when we go on vacation. And we have the neighbors keep an eye on things. We do whatever it takes! Our home insurance plan recognizes the extra protection of an alarm with a discounted home insurance rate; insurance plans for vehicles offer similar discounts.

Other measures to take against theft include keeping your insurance policy up-to-date (this includes providing your insurance provider with an inventory and photographs of the items in it). Check your units out and in each day with each crew. Never be unaware of where your equipment is. Consider registering your equipment and tools with the National Equipment Register for a fee.

And as unfortunate as it is, Milton Denny is right: employees steal too. As he has noted in his column "The Business Side," employees shouldn't be overlooked when inventory has been stolen. It does happen. A good tool to prevent this is to conduct a thorough background check prior to hiring each employee. It isn't meant as a privacy invasion or personal insult, and if the individual has nothing to hide, he or she will not mind providing the information requested.

If these measures haven't stifled theft of your property, the best thing to do is to get people involved-manufacturers, local dealers, your state society and its chapters, and even local firms and individuals. All parties can keep an eye out for floating instruments. Make a post to our bulletin board, RPLS.com; we have a special category for stolen equipment. We also have a stolen equipment listing on our website at www.pobonline.com. And remember that goods travel fast. Check eBay for your stolen items; criminals often want to get rid of items for fast cash. And they do know what they are stealing, says Marilyn Evers, executive director for the Florida Surveying and Mapping Society (FSMS).

FSMS has been active in implementing strategies to prevent theft in its state. The executive board launched a campaign against equipment theft, which Evers says is especially rampant in central Florida. The group sent letters to all of the state's police chiefs and county sheriffs, asking for their help to crack down on the problem. They received a very good response via phone calls, return letters and E-mails. FSMS then provided various area patrollers with photos of surveying equipment so they knew what to look for during traffic stops and domestic visits. State police officers are also working closer with pawn shops in the area where equipment has turned up. Other state societies are taking similar measures.

Perhaps manufacturers will soon embed theft deterrents in the units they make. Until then, it's the responsibility of each firm and individual to crack down on the surveying equipment theft problem. Your negligence could be a liability to your company.

Speaking of Liability"¦

Surveyors and engineers carry many types of liability. POB's own "Traversing the Law" columnist Jeff Lucas, PLS, Esq., will present a teleseminar program on such liability issues on Tuesday, Feb. 28th. The teleseminar will be presented through POB and PESI LLC.

Jeff will provide attendees with an historical perspective on engineer and land surveyor liability, discuss privity of contract and standard of care, and offer solutions to limit your liability. He will present recent case studies and answer to both the large corporation and the sole practitioner. Join us on February 28th to earn your continuing education credits and learn from a seasoned, licensed surveyor and attorney. All you need is a telephone!

Register at www.pesi.com/POB1 today!