Photo of copper wiring with industry trend label

There has been a spike in theft across various sectors of the construction industry, and contractors victimized in this trend are facing project delays along with the costs of stolen items. And unfortunately, a wave of new reports documenting theft and vandalism has hit the news. 

Construction site crime is a major money problem: It contractors between $300 million and $1 billion each year. Recent data shows that material theft and vandalism on job sites by external parties are increasing, causing major concern for industry professionals.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, police announced almost from a jobsite in mid-November. Earlier in 2022, thieves went so far as to steal and resell heavy machinery as “refurbished,” . And this trend has been ongoing — substantial amounts of PVC pipe, vinyl siding, and dryer vents were also in Greenville, North Carolina earlier this fall, and on November 29, $36,000 worth of tools and copper wiring were reported stolen from another construction site in Lincoln, Nebraska.

With so many cases of theft popping up all over the United States, it’s a good idea for contractors to have a plan and take action to ensure crime doesn’t wreak havoc on their businesses. A of recent construction crimes from WRAL News stresses that “when tools are stolen, it sometimes means the crews have to stop working and wait for new ones, which delays feedback from commercial properties that are building new residential homes in the area.” 

Not only does theft pose a direct loss of money due to stolen goods or cash, but it also puts construction projects at risk of serious complications — costing more down the line.

One is currently experiencing backlash for a delay caused by construction theft. A bike lane proposal was pushed back shortly after construction began due to an “ongoing problem with survey equipment being stolen.”

“The delay really made people question how much we care about those communities,” the Seattle Department of Transportation’s director Greg Spotts said. 

Contractors will want to become increasingly aware of the ways job sites can be affected by theft and vandalism, especially as the numbers of cases skyrocket. 

Let’s take a look at three of the most reliable ways contractors are protecting themselves from crime. 

1. Using reliable, up-to-date technology

It’s no secret that technologically-advanced practices are benefitting the construction industry. Utilizing GPS equipment trackers can help contractors locate missing machinery and equipment, giving peace of mind to those working on job sites in crime-vulnerable areas.

The (NER), an online equipment registry tool, makes use of GPS technology and also offers the ability to view a piece of heavy equipment’s history before purchase. The company’s database is extensive and continuously growing, potentially offering great help to contractors seeking secure practices.

Video monitoring can also be an efficient way to keep track of job sites. Advanced video monitoring like , for example, markets its ability to “deter 97% of crime with remote video monitoring powered by AI (artificial intelligence).” Advances in video security mean more than just recording construction sites — systems market themselves as offering “expertly trained remote guards,” audio and visual warnings, and the ability to dispatch real officers.

Some businesses have even been employing the use of as another form of video monitoring. Drones offer aerial views of sites to keep an eye on hard-to-spot areas, and though they can allegedly be highly effective, they can also be expensive.

Some video monitoring options are much more affordable, like Ring. Ring has traditionally been a product for residences, but the company has a new line of security devices that are designed exclusively for the construction industry and can be purchased as a kit.

2. Completing basic daily security tasks

Some of the most commonly used traditional security measures can be extremely dependable when utilized correctly. Organized daily reporting is an essential part of a day on the job, but  manually taking pictures, writing down serial numbers in a log book, and tagging or engraving tools and equipment are also solid forms of construction security. Plus, properly tagged and inventoried items have a greater chance of being recovered by law enforcement if something does happen to them.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but other basic measures — such as locking up tools at the end of the day with cables, chains, or in a job box — are vital. 

Some industry professionals think it’s important to keep only the most essential tools and materials on site. ForConstructionPros, “less inventory means fewer targets for thieves. Though they do require extra effort, these practices could provide an extra layer of protection for contractors.

Other experts suggest the security of job sites relies on employee responsibility. 

Dean Gagliano, associate product manager for Milwaukee Tool, some workers are “doing things in a rush” and “forget to lock up a tool.” He stresses the importance of site management and employee monitoring, adding that “they’re not taking proper precautions, not taking it back to the toolbox. They’re giving the opportunity to thieves.” 

Gagliano’s point reminds us that prequalifying contractors and before work has even begun is critical and can greatly reduce the risk of job site theft.

3. Asking for help

When contractors are away from job sites for prolonged periods of time, those areas become vulnerable. Asking local police for increased patrols can be a good way to keep an eye on things — especially if a crew member has already seen any kind of suspicious activity around the site.

A police officer patrolling a noticed thieves stealing materials and was successfully able to stop the theft in progress. Sgt. Matt Schaefer recounted the event, describing how the officer “was able to observe two male subjects standing next to the building and he was able to notice there were metal components to a fire suppression system on the vehicle, essentially stopping a theft of metal in progress.”

“​​A very effective proactive strategy to helping with mitigating theft risk at construction sites before it arrives, is to have officer’s familiar with the immediate area provide information to the agency crime prevention officer or specialist,” in their coverage of how police play into preventing potential construction site burglaries.

Additionally, several companies including , , and offer security personnel services for construction job sites. Hiring security guards to monitor and keep a project secure and boost confidence about what goes on when workers head home for the day.