A LoJack signal helped two Collier County Sheriff’s Office pilots locate a $70,000 backhoe in eastern Lee County, just hours after it was stolen off a farm in Immokalee.
The discovery Tuesday afternoon marks the second time CCSO pilots have located a stolen vehicle since special LoJack tracking equipment was recently installed in both CCSO helicopters.
The first time was April 13, when pilots in a CCSO helicopter located a vehicle equipped with LoJack transmitters was reported stolen out of Miami in Golden Gate.
CCSO pilots found the backhoe a week later.
CCSO reports gave this account of the theft:
R.D. Starkweather told deputies that someone entered his farm at 2898 Edwards Grove Road some time between 9:30 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday and stole a 2006 Caterpillar backhoe valued at $70,000.
Starkweather told deputies that all of the gates on the property were locked and secure prior to him leaving on Monday and when he arrived on Tuesday.
Starkweather said the thief drove the backhoe though his orange grove and then through a fence and exited the property toward State Road 82.
Further investigation tracked the backhoe to Lee County.
That’s when Cpl. Ed Henderson and Cpl. Joseph Andreasen were drawn in to conduct an air search.
Around the same time the Lee County Sheriff’s Office had put up one of its aircraft, also equipped with a LoJack receiver, to assist CCSO in the search. The LCSO aircraft had gotten a hit northwest of Buckingham and notified CCSO.
Andreasen, the pilot, and Henderson, the tactical flight officer, were just about to head back to Collier and turn over the search to Lee County deputies, when they got a LoJack hit in south Lehigh Acres.
Henderson and Andreasen narrowed the search area and located the backhoe abandoned near a vacant lot at 38th Street Southwest and Beth Avenue in south Lehigh Acres shortly after 2 p.m.
No arrest has been made and deputies continue to investigate.
Having a LoJack receiver in the aircraft helped deputies make a swift recovery, said Henderson, who was instrumental in getting the system installed in CCSO aircraft.
“It makes it even better when you can find it closer to the time it was stolen,” the 11-year CCSO veteran said.
Lt. Chad Parker said having LoJack in CCSO aircraft allows deputies to fly directly over a site once they get a hit as opposed to deputies in a vehicle equipped with LoJack tracking equipment must follow the road, which can lead to canals and fields, to reach their destination.
“It’s a great benefit” said Parker, who oversees the Financial Crimes Bureau which includes the auto theft unit.