Theft is almost always a crime of opportunity, and construction theft is no exception to this rule. Too often, worksites are not patrolled by security guards and high-value equipment isn’t locked down. Even theft of small construction tools is a big problem, but high-ticket items, like a front-end loader, can also provide opportunities for theft.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction job sites were shut down, sometimes abruptly, to slow the spread of the disease. Empty, unmonitored sites presented a great target for thieves. For example:
- Unfinished homes were targeted for full appliance packages, piping, and water heaters.
- In Maryland, $4,500 hand tools were stolen in one night.
- A GPS computer worth $15,000 was stolen from an unsecured Caterpillar Motor Grader in Nebraska.
- In Kansas, a trailer was damaged as thieves broke in to steal almost $10,000 worth of hand tools.
While these are just a sample of the incidents that can occur when criminals target an unsecured location, theft at construction sites can and does occur anytime. It doesn’t take a pandemic and an empty lot for thieves to act.
Here are eight tools and strategies anyone can use to control theft happening at their site:
#1: Construction Fencing
Construction fencing is the old standby and the bare-minimum security requirement for most sites. It’s the first line of defense in an ongoing effort to outthink the criminal element. Typically, chain link fencing allows thieves to be visible from outside the site. Keeping the fence line clear of debris or plants is always a good idea. Fences should be eight feet high, if possible, and “no trespassing” signs should dominate the area.
#2: Perimeter Lighting
Perimeter lighting is another typical response to security, and it does help. Thieves seek out dark corners to do their dirty work, so lighting up every corner of your perimeter is another way to prevent construction site theft. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on lighting. With a quick trip to the hardware store, most motion lights can be purchased for under $100.
#3: Onsite Security Guards
Onsite security guards are another one of the typical responses to prevent theft. Typically, these guards patrol regularly across the property after hours. Onsite security guards can provide a strong human presence at night when many construction site thefts can occur. However, this is an expensive option that may be out of reach for smaller construction firms.
#4: Key Control and Locking Bars
Preventing access to valuable equipment with things like locking bars is critical. You can even anchor equipment with cable or a chain after hours.
Since battery theft is an ongoing problem, removing wires or the battery itself is always a good idea. Even lowering the blades and buckets can help immobilize and secure your larger equipment. Some sites will even detach the battery’s wires so thieves can’t drive large equipment away with a cheap master key they purchased online.
#5: Video Surveillance
Video surveillance is as much of a necessity on a job site these days as having liability insurance and workers’ compensation. These tools can really help when you can’t lock up equipment or put fencing around an entire site.
For example, you can lock up hand tools, but copper piping in a new build is vulnerable unless you have mobile surveillance cameras to watch the property.
#6: Virtual Security Guards
Virtual security guards are the latest iteration of the old reliable rent-a-cop. Instead of (or in addition to) a physical presence on the job site after hours, your video cameras can connect to a fully monitored remote bank of screens that an off-site security expert can observe. From that security hub, your facility can be monitored for a very reasonable cost without exposing you to the liability of a foot patrol.
You’ll never have to worry about the physical safety of a virtual security guard. They can see everything and can zoom in with a particular camera to get a closer look. Then they can engage the potential criminal by talking to them through the camera. Alternatively, they can sound a loud alarm and flashing lights to scare them off while calling for a police response.
#7: Tool Tracking Processes
Good tool tracking processes help ensure that every tool is used, put back, and stays where it’s supposed to. While construction sites have a lot going on, improving the management of your hand tools and standard equipment is one way for you to cut costs.
On most of these sites, employees punch in and out so you can keep track of their productivity. You should set up a similar system for your tools and materials. Conducting an inventory of your equipment and then tracking usage does more than making sure they don’t disappear. This process can also help you understand which tools and equipment last the longest given the wear and tear they undergo. This could inform your buying decisions in the future.
However, the primary benefit is to make sure those tools stick around long enough to have the chance to actually wear out.
#8: Employee Background Checks
It’s always a good idea to perform background checks on your workforce. All of the technology, fencing, and security presence in the world will not protect you from an unscrupulous employee.
Hiring the best construction teams is a good way to ensure the security of your valuable property. This means performing background checks on every worker that comes to your build site.
Many construction managers struggle to find employees, and some take a “no questions asked” approach to hiring warm bodies. From a security perspective, this can open the door to criminals. The last thing you want is an employee that understands the inner workings of your job site to come back later and use that knowledge to commit a crime. Performing a background check may seem like an unnecessary and costly step, but the reality is today you can never be too sure without it.
Our recommendation is not that you use some of these security techniques. Instead, we suggest considering employing as many as possible – if not all – of these techniques. Construction site theft adds a huge cost to your business. You simply can’t afford not to make site security a priority.
Protect Your Job Site with Pro-Vigil
Let’s face it—it’s a lot easier to protect your construction site than it is to recover stolen equipment and property. Pro-Vigil works closely with construction managers and owners to craft the perfect prevention program for job site security. We are the nation’s leading video surveillance company devoted to ensuring the security of your property, workforce, and the customers you serve. Call on us today to sleep a little better tomorrow.