Rising Material Costs Raise the Stakes on Crime

With millions of Americans already vaccinated and many COVID-19 restrictions lifted, most states are back open for business. While it may feel like life is getting back to a sense of normalcy for some, many businesses are finding that this “new normal” is anything but that.

Costs of goods and building materials – like lumber, copper pipe, electrical infrastructure, etc. – have skyrocketed in recent months. At the same time, the semiconductor shortage has caused automobile assembly lines to slow to a crawl, leaving dealer lots empty and causing a spike in the value of used cars.

With all of these products and materials becoming much more valuable overnight, they also become more attractive targets to thieves. And, while “back to normal” is good news for businesses, it also has become difficult to hire enough staff to meet demand, which can leave worksites, car lots, lumber yards, etc. understaffed and more vulnerable to theft.

Just how bad has this issue become? And what can you do to deter criminals who may try to take advantage of the situation? Let’s dive into the problem…


Construction Material Costs Spike

Whether you work in construction or have done some home improvement projects over the past few months, you’ve probably noticed a painful increase in the cost of building materials. And while construction materials have always been a prime target for thieves, the value of lumber in particular has reached new heights, soaring to an all-time high in May. In fact, the cost of lumber has soared 250% in the past year alone.

We’ve even been told by one industry expert that the amount of lumber to build a home costs four times more than it cost a year and a half ago – meaning a potential theft and ensuing losses could cost the business four times as much. And lumber isn’t the only hot commodity:

  • Steel, another common building material, has spiked 20-25% recently.
  • And copper continues to surge in price, up more than 30%. Beware of thieves seeking out copper on construction sites – the damage done ripping out the material can cost more to fix than the actual copper itself.

In addition, material shortages are delaying projects and requiring a reduction in construction crew size, meaning these valuable materials are exposed on site longer, with fewer people watching over them. 

And if a contractor is reducing the size of construction crews, they likely would not welcome incurring the cost of hiring security guards – particularly since guard companies also report difficulty in hiring staff in these post-pandemic times, which can lead to higher hourly rates or limited availability of guards.

Used Car and Rental Lots

Beyond construction materials, the global semiconductor shortage is disrupting supply chains across multiple industries. The automobile industry has been particularly hard hit, since the average new car today has between 30 and 50 computers on board.

This has caused new car inventories to plunge 50-60% in some cases, causing the value of used cars to escalate as much as 25% in the past year. While a shiny new car may look enticing, thieves know that the easy money is on used car lots.

And the same issue is being seen across rental car lots nationwide. During the pandemic, people simply did not travel, and many rental car lots sold off their fleets to make up for lost business. According to one report, a rental car company dropped the size of its rental fleet from 750 cars to 550 cars – with others dropping to 30-40% of their pre-pandemic capacity.

Now, with summer travel kicking into high gear once again, the price of a daily rental has risen by $100 or more when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

There simply are no new cars available for rental car companies to replenish their fleets – and losing a car to theft is a far more damaging proposition today than it would be under normal circumstances. It could take weeks to replace a stolen car – and while insurance will cover the vehicle cost, there’s no replacing the lost revenue.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

It could take a year or more for the current supply chain disruptions and cost escalations to calm down. For businesses impacted by these issues, physical security needs to remain a top priority.

A single lumber theft from a construction site could lead to losses equaling thousands of dollars. Establishing a well-lit perimeter with locked fences or gates remains a must when it comes to the first line of defense against thieves. 

But as this new threat landscape evolves, smart surveillance powered by artificial intelligence (AI) remains the most effective and cost-efficient option for businesses today. Whether you utilize fixed surveillance cameras or mobile units powered by solar panels and no need for WiFi connectivity, this powerful combination can detect suspicious behavior before it’s too late – and repel 97% of would-be thieves using audio and visual deterrents.

Prices are rising – and your materials and inventory are more desirable to thieves than ever before. Contact Pro-Vigil today to learn how our smart surveillance solutions can help monitor and secure your business.

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