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The Growing Problem of Construction Site Theft in 2021

More than 400 years ago, philosopher Francis Bacon made an observation that still rings true today: “Opportunity makes a thief.” Unfortunately, as anyone in the construction business can attest, more opportunity attracts more thieves—especially in 2021. With equipment and material costs soaring, construction sites are prime targets for thieves, and construction businesses are paying the price.

Let’s take a look at the size and scope of the problem, how it’s impacting construction companies across the country, and what you can learn from recent construction theft headlines to protect your business.

 

The Great Construction Comeback

Following its historic collapse in 2020, the construction industry has seen a bounceback of epic proportions. According to CONTRACTOR Magazine, the industry “is set to grow by 5.2% in 2021.” Furthermore, “Output in 2021 will be 2.5% higher than the 2019 level.” In other words, people coming out of lockdown aren’t just buying concert tickets and planning tropical getaways—they’re also building stuff, and lots of it.

Building material costs are skyrocketing.

Fueled by this sharp uptick in construction activity, the demand for—and price of—raw building materials has soared. Case in point: In a rare move earlier this year, the Associated General Contractors of America issued a Construction Inflation Alert for the first time since 2008 following a 12.8% spike in overall input costs. Key drivers of this trend include:

  • A 62% jump in the cost of lumber and plywood;
  • A 20% increase in the cost of steel mill products; and
  • A 114% rise in the cost of diesel fuel.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing that unused pile of two-by-fours on my back patio in a whole new light.

Prices for new and used heavy equipment implements are on the rise.

Increased construction activity has also stoked the lagging demand for heavy equipment. In fact, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, “a clear majority (88%) of equipment manufacturers report a positive outlook for 2021.” The market for used commercial assets has seen similar expansion this year, as shown in this market trends report. Of particular note are the average US sale price increases for used medium earthmoving equipment (21%), used truck tractors (23%), and used vocational trucks (21%).

 

The Inevitable Impact on Theft

All of this spells greater reward for those who illegally obtain and resell construction materials and equipment—and greater risk for those who are responsible for managing and protecting such assets. Unfortunately, as building and service contractors scale up to accommodate and capitalize on rapidly growing demand, theft prevention becomes increasingly difficult.

All it takes is a quick Google search to bring up a seemingly endless scroll of local news stories illustrating this concerning—and in many cases, financially devastating—trend. The following examples represent a mere fraction of these incidents:

Burglary in the Buckeye State

Following a string of construction site thefts in Middletown, Ohio, Darren Susong Jr.—who owns Complete Innovations, LLC—is out tens of thousands of dollars in equipment damages. “People come out here and they put it all on the line, you know what I mean?” Susong told FOX19 NOW in March 2021. “They go to work to better their family, and people go around and take stuff that isn’t theirs, and it’s aggravating.”

Crime in Colorado

In response to a slew of building supply thefts at several residential and commercial construction sites, The Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs announced in June 2021 that it will provide $1,000 to anyone who comes forward with information leading to an arrest. According to this article published by The Gazette of Colorado Springs, “Some builders have reported a 300% increase in job site thefts over the last three months.” Lumber has been a particularly lucrative target for thieves in that area. “Lumber yards, everywhere, are getting hit by opportunists to make money off of the high price of lumber right now,” Steve Schlosser, the construction manager for Classic Homes, told reporters. “I’m assuming, based on what they’re seeing on Facebook...that the materials that they’re taking, there’s a market for them, wherever it may be, to sell it.”

Heist in Plain Sight

In Eureka, Missouri, an industrial generator valued at $10,000 was stolen from a home under construction. According to local police, even though the generator had been wired to the house and bolted to a slab of concrete, the thieves were able to cut the wires and break the machine free—all without rousing the neighbors.

The Caterpillar Caper

Earlier this spring, a thief evaded police after stealing a $165,000 Caterpillar loader from a construction site in Clinton Township, Michigan. According to police investigating the incident, this wasn’t the first theft of this type in the area—but unfortunately, while some pieces of equipment have been recovered thanks to GPS tracking devices, this particular rig didn’t have a working tracker.

 

The Best Way to Protect Your Construction Business from Asset Loss

There’s a lot to learn from these incidents. At Spytec GPS, we’re all about empowering business owners to proactively combat theft—thus taking the weight of worry off their shoulders. That’s why we’re urging those in the building and contracting industries to prepare themselves for the very real possibility of theft.

So, if you haven’t already, now is definitely the time to ask yourself, “Are my job sites secure?” And perhaps even more importantly, “In the event of theft, what’s my recovery plan?” After all, prevention is only one piece of the theft protection puzzle—and unfortunately, despite your best efforts, prevention isn’t always possible.

There’s simply no failsafe way to stop a thief from stealing—especially when the items ripe for the taking are sitting out in plain sight. The next logical step, then, is implementing a reliable way to catch that thief after the fact. That’s where location tracking comes into play.

Interested in learning more about the many ways a business-focused GPS tracking platform can protect your construction business from losses due to theft? Schedule a totally free, zero-obligation consultation with a GPS tracking expert here.

 

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More construction sites and increased demand for construction equipment and materials may spell greater opportunity for thieves—but it doesn’t have to spell financial catastrophe for your construction business. With the right technology and a little forethought, you can beat thieves at their own game.

About the Author

Brooke Andrus is the Director of Marketing Communications at Spytec GPS. A journalist by trade, Brooke now uses her nose for news to keep small business owners and managers informed on industry trends and best practices.