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How To Prevent Theft On Construction Sites

construction zone in New York City

You would be surprised at what criminals would find valuable enough to steal.

Robbing cars, bank vaults, or jewelry stores can be lucrative for criminals, but they are high-risk criminal endeavors that can result in arrest, prison, or even death.

But some kinds of robberies are a relatively lower opportunistic risk but can be just as lucrative, and those are construction site robberies.

But believe it or not, construction sites are a popular target for theft. The raw materials that are used in the construction market are very valuable on the open market. 

Construction sites are easier, softer targets for thieves to steal from than other more protected targets. And they are not always fully secured 24-hours a day. 

Construction sites always need more expensive materials regularly replenished as work progresses. So, knowledgeable construction site thieves will always have a regular source of materials to plunder if they strategically plan heists.

To put this idea in context, let’s talk about how less risky and more profitable it is for car thieves to steal strategic components from under a car than steal the whole car. Modern vehicles have G.P.S. devices, and there are CCTV cameras everywhere now. Car thieves play Russian roulette with their liberty and lives when they steal cars.

Raw Car Materials 

From 2019 to the present, catalytic converter theft has increased by 325%. A catalytic converter reduces harmful emissions from a car. They are located under a car and feature a few grams of precious metals like platinum, palladium, or rhodium. 

But an ounce of each metal sells for $1,000, $2,300, and $20,000 respectively.

The average catalytic converter has three to seven grams of platinum in it. Depending on market conditions, a gram of platinum can be worth $31 to $38. So, a thief could make several hundred or thousands by stealing dozens of catalytic converters.

Now, let’s use this same strategic theft logic for construction sites.

The Value of Raw Construction Materials

Construction sites are large, sprawling, and chaotic. And it is hard for workers or security to notice everything. It’s a shame because the raw materials on a construction site, like metal, lumber, pipes, glass, copper, and even specialized tools, are very valuable.

In large, population-dense metropolitan cities, it can cost anywhere between $3.5 million to $20 million per floor to build a skyscraper. And even in an era of skyrocketing inflation, the cost of construction materials has increased by over 20%.

If your construction company is not taking preemptive or proactive steps to reduce material theft, you may spend millions more to finish a project.

Let’s talk about how to prevent construction site theft. But let’s first discuss why thieves target construction sites and what they steal.

Contact B&B Roadway and Security Solutions for a professional consultation on how to augment your business’ site access and security.

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Why Do Thieves Target Construction Sites?

View of a construction site

Construction sites are not always fully secured.

And construction materials are usually left unattended during projects. A thief does not have to be a super spy to get on a construction site. Non-conspicuously stalking out a construction site for a few hours or days can show thieves optimum ways to do it.

Construction site thieves don’t usually get caught. And even if they do, it’s easier to risk arrest for stealing construction lumber than robbing a bank or liquor store.

Also, some construction theft is so gradual and small-scale on an incremental basis that companies don’t even notice them unless a large-scale theft of materials occurs.

And it is very easy to sell construction materials for quick cash before detection. The police are more likely to prioritize banks and store robberies and deadly crimes than lumber or metal theft from an open construction site.

And just like catalytic converter theft, many construction companies don’t realize they have been robbed of construction materials until long after the fact.

What Kinds of Construction Materials do Thieves Steal?

The kinds of things that thieves steal from construction sites sound like a list of supplies a homeowner gets from a hardware store.

Lumber

The price of new houses has spiked within the last year. Many economists theorized that rampant inflation and pandemic- lockdowns contributed to the price spikes.

But a primary factor has been rampant construction site theft of lumber. Construction site thieves are stealing so much lumber that it creates greater demand for the material on the open market.

The price of lumber has surged by 300%.

Heavy Equipment and Vehicles

Large construction vehicles are often targeted

Heavy equipment and large construction vehicles are valuable on the black market. Unscrupulous companies can buy and rent them for the cheap. Or they can be stripped down for materials.

And it is not difficult for a thief with heavy equipment experience to steal from a construction site. In December 2020, an unknown thief got away with stealing a bulldozer in Virginia. The case is still unsolved.

Copper

Every house and skyscraper needs miles of copper wiring installed. Copper is used in electrical and telecommunications systems.

And it is not just a problem for construction sites; petty thieves have been stripping copper from houses, public utility poles, and pipes for decades.

A pound of copper is worth over $4 per pound currently. A construction site thief could make tens of thousands by swiping all of the copper at a large-scale site.

The point is that there is always a market for construction site materials. And everything onsite has value; power tools, glass panes, steel, P.V.C. pipes, concrete, or any unprotected materials.

How to Prevent Theft on Construction Sites

If getting access to your construction site or its materials is difficult, then thieves will just move on to the next one.

Enhance Site Security

A lot of opportunistic construction theft occurs because of security complacency. Strategically secure your site and have a well-followed security plan. 

Don’t leave the keys in the ignition of heavy equipment and vehicles.

Take the wheels off of pallets that have materials on them.

Put away and store power tools after work.

Have temporary fencing installed that covers the project’s entirety, materials, storage areas, and work trailers.

Keep Records

Construction grade heavy equipment and tools have a 17-digit P.I.N. number on them. Every worker who uses them should document them in work logs.

Kill Switches and Circuit Breakers

Heavy equipment and vehicles have circuit breakers and kill switches that can be used to cut electricity or fuel in the event of theft.

Enhanced Background Checks

Ensure that your company performs intensive background checks before trusting every worker on a site with materials worth millions. 

Contact B&B Roadway and Security Solutions to learn more about proactive construction site security measures.

One of BBRSS’ proprietary products is our security crash gates and barriers. They are horizontal gate security solutions that don’t interfere with existing roadways. Our crash gates are perfect for construction sites where large opening entrances or exits must be covered without modifying existing roadways. Contact us to learn more.

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