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Theft On Four Wheels

Theft On Four Wheels
December 26, 2004 |

They’ve become almost as common as tractors on Alabama farms. Whether they’re carrying fencing supplies, running errands or zipping–sometimes uninvited–across fields, all-terrain vehicles or ATVs are a part of rural life.They can be as handy and versatile as a Swiss Army knife or as frustrating–when ridden by trespassers–as a persistent virus. But one thing’s for certain, the number of ATVs is growing at a phenomenal rate–five fold from 1997 to 2001. With increased numbers and their ease of use, ATVs also have become a hot commodity for thieves. With no registration system to track their numbers, there are an estimated 260,000 ATVs in Alabama and an unknown number of stolen ATVs. Tracking how many vehicles are stolen and resold is difficult to estimate due to the lack of records according to Capt. Jimmy Miller of the investigation division of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.Recognizing this problem, the voting delegates of the Alabama Farmers Federation recommended the creation of a mandatory ID system for all-terrain vehicles during the Federation’s 83rd Annual Meeting Dec. 6 in Mobile. The farm organization hopes to work with lawmakers to craft legislation that will help prevent theft and deter four-wheeling trespassers from destroying crops.According to Miller, it is the lack of a paper trail that makes ATVs a convenient target for thieves. With no title required, a thief can sell any ATV with no questions asked while also making the true number of thefts hard to pinpoint.”Anyone can report the theft of their ATV to their local law enforcement, but they need their ATV’s serial number,” Miller said. “But many people don’t have that vital piece of information, so we have no way of easily tracking or finding them. A lot of footwork and hard work goes into tracking an ATV, and every piece of information we have helps.”State investigators like Miller depend on local law enforcement agencies–city police, county sheriff’s department–to report the vehicle thefts to them so they can be entered in the state agency’s database of stolen property. Some local agencies either don’t report the ATV thefts or incorrectly record valuable information such as serial numbers.Miller says that every number of an ATV’s serial number is important and means something particular to that ATV. Numerals could mean the brand, year, model, size, state of sale, manufacturer or even color. And it only takes one digit being off or wrong to lead to the misidentification of a stolen ATV. “You need to know your serial number and have it written down well and placed somewhere safe,” Miller said. “If a number is wrong due to victim recollection or from a typing error, the stolen ATV will not show up in the computer system correctly reducing its chances of being identified.” Miller said thieves are stealing ATVs for many different reasons, but mainly because they’re easy targets. “ATV thieves know what they’re doing,” Miller said. “They look for ATVs that are sitting in yards or left at hunting clubs during off-season. And surprisingly, a lot of thefts happen during the day, when people are less suspicious.”Former Federation State Board Member Bert Driskell of Grand Bay knows all about ATV theft. He had two brand new ATVs stolen at different times.”The biggest thing is not to leave them sitting outside, because they won’t be sitting there for long,” Driskell said. “Place them inside a building and have them locked up. Thieves want convenience, and if they see it sitting out, they’ll take it.”One of Driskell’s stolen ATVs was taken from a locked storage area, where the thieves broke the lock and took the vehicle. His niece’s son had an ATV stolen when it was left outside. Parked between vehicles in their driveway and seemingly blocked in, the thieves still managed to maneuver the ATV out and take it without ever being seen.Alfa Insurance offers many coverages for ATVs, and each line of coverage fits a different situation. Some coverages require the vehicle to be on a specific property to be insured and others do not include liability, but each plan has a designated fit. Home coverage includes a $1,000 property limit on ATVs with liability coverage while they are located on the residence premises. An ATV taken off the premises and taken to another area, such as a hunting camp, will not be covered if damage or theft occurs, and loses its liability coverage. ATVs can be insured on an automobile policy provided there is supporting automobile business with Alfa. Auto ATV coverage does not allow coverage to be bound to a prohibited ATV or if the owner allows children under the age of 14 to operate the ATV.To qualify for farm coverage, ATVs need to be used for the upkeep of the farm or for farming in some capacity. With this coverage, the ATV is covered for physical damage, including theft, while on or away from the insured location. However, liability coverage is limited to the insured location. There is no liability coverage when the ATV is away from the insured location. A separate machinery policy is also available, but the ATV must be solely used for the upkeep of the property or a clearly identifiable farm measure.Luckily, Driskell had one of his two stolen ATVs covered under his farmowner insurance, but he wasn’t so lucky with the second stolen ATV. He now keeps all of his ATVs properly insured and in a safe place.”They need to be insured, especially for liability,” Driskell said. “The newer models are about as expensive as a used car and can be costly to replace. I have several ATVs now and keep them all fully covered and out of plain sight, especially the new ones because those are the ones thieves have their eyes on.”For more information about insuring an ATV, contact your local Alfa agent.>

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