Stolen city backhoe recovered

November 16, 2017

On Monday night, a city backhoe was taken for an unauthorized ride through town.

A backhoe, emblazoned with the city of Beatrice’s “Stake Your Claim” logo, was taken sometime Monday night from a work site at Fifth and Logan streets. The vehicle was left unattended when a water department crew was called to a different site to help repair a water main break at about 3 p.m. on Monday. The backhoe was recovered Tuesday evening, after it was found wedged in an alley behind the location of the old Dairy Queen at 500 W. Court St.

The theft wasn’t exactly sophisticated, as the keys were left in the vehicle and the doors were unlocked, said Water Superintendent Steve Kelley.

“What happened to it, I really don’t know, but there doesn’t seem to be any damage to it,” Kelley said. “We got it back and, when the guys get back in, we’re going to talk about how we’re going to handle the key situation from now on.”

Kelley estimated that the 2005 model backhoe had a value between $30,000 and $40,000, but a newer backhoe recently purchased by the city cost them about $88,000. The insurance on the vehicle that went missing has a $50,000 deductible.

“In my opinion, where it was sitting, it was pretty well-hidden,” Kelley said. “My hunch is, it was going to be loaded on a trailer and it’d be gone.”

Discussing ways to prevent theft of city work vehicles, members of the Beatrice Board of Public Works pitched several ideas that might keep the heavy machinery safe.

Street Superintendent Jason Moore said a battery disconnect switch could prevent anyone from starting the machines.

“All of the pieces of equipment that we have, you can get a battery disconnect if they don’t already have it,” he said. “Usually, it’s a lever. You flip it and you put a padlock on it.”

BPW President Dave Eskra, who is also owner of Twin Rivers Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Beatrice, said that his dealership uses a device that allows their vehicles to be tracked in real time, in case they get stolen or are otherwise missing.

Eskra said he didn’t know exactly how much that would cost, but it probably would not be so expensive, in comparison to the theft of a single vehicle.

“We have that in police cars and ambulances,” City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said. “We have it in those vehicles, we’ve never gone to the point where we put them in anything else.”

The distance between the place where the backhoe was taken at Fifth and Logan streets and where it was found, near West Court and North Lasalle streets, is a distance of about a mile and a half and means the backhoe would have had to cross over the Big Blue River.

There are no suspects named yet, but, Kelley said, there were some clues left behind for the Beatrice Police Department who are investigating the backhoe’s disappearance.

“They took fingerprints,” Kelley said, “but it would have to be somebody who’s been in trouble before.”