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How Theft Happens on the Jobsite – and How to Stop it

Theft on the jobsite can have a significant impact to timelines and budgets, and wreak havoc on profits. But it’s not uncommon. According to the National Equipment Register (NER), it’s happening more frequently over the past decade, as thieves get craftier about how to help themselves to various equipment and materials.

For example, in Marysville, a man was caught with more than $10,000 of stolen goods — including unlikely items such as bath tubs, sinks, columns, doors, wall sheeting and even a garbage disposal. And in Ohio, two men stole an entire job’s worth of metal roofing. 

Although both these thieves were eventually apprehended, that’s not the norm: Only 25% of stolen equipment is ever recovered.

What do people like to steal from job sites? Heavy equipment — bulldozers and tractors, for example — are the biggest ticket items. But power tools are a close second. Smaller items like fasteners, shingles and underlayment materials are also targeted. 

NER estimates the total value of stolen equipment to be as much as $1 billion annually – and that doesn’t include tools or building materials. Firms not only lose money replacing the missing items, but theft leads to lost productivity, schedule delays and increased insurance premiums. Worse yet, employee morale can plummet, causing decreased job satisfaction and attrition.

Don’t Be Fooled — It Could Be an Inside Job

While thieves may raid the jobsite after hours, don’t assume that all theft is committed by strangers — it could be an inside job. Subcontractors and employees are responsible for a substantial amount of jobsite theft. Anyone working on your jobsite has knowledge about where and how equipment, tools and materials are stored, making it easier to break in at night and make away with the goods. During the day, employees with sticky fingers may pocket tools and materials while at work. Job sites are by nature temporary, and workers may or may not feel loyal to your company. 

To help prevent on-the-job theft, keep a clean jobsite. It’s easier for workers to steal things when the environment is messy and disorganized. Make sure tools and equipment are locked up when not in use. Take regular inventory, and walk the site to set workers’ expectations that you’re paying attention. Establish and enforce clear policies, and make it known that you have security measures, such as security cameras, in place.

Run a Tight Ship

In addition to video surveillance, jobsite management best practices can help deter theft. This involves running a tight ship in terms of employee hours, deliveries, inventory and tracking.

First, be sure to have processes in place to track the arrival and departure of your workers. Being aware of their schedules sets a precedent for accountability — and if something is stolen, you’ll be better able to narrow down your list of suspects. Track equipment usage by putting a system in place for checking in and out tools and heavy equipment — and be sure there’s a camera positioned over where this occurs. That way you have a record of who was using equipment when it disappeared. 

It’s also a good idea to install GPS tracking systems on valuable heavy equipment, so if someone makes off with your bulldozer, you’ll know where to find it. Keep detailed records that note serial numbers and other information, so that if equipment does go missing, you can file a proper claim with your insurance provider. 

Finally, don’t overstock materials; the surplus is an easy target. Order what you need, when you need it, and don’t leave any extra stuff sitting around. 

The Best Defense is Deterrence

Although you may not be able to prevent theft completely, deterrence reduces risk. As a first line of physical defense, install adequate fencing with locks and no-tresspass signs. Next, install construction cameras throughout the jobsite, especially at strategic locations such as entrances and exits, or where equipment is stored. Important features are high-resolution for shaper images, 360-degree movement and optical zoom, and the ability to control the cameras remotely. Look for cloud-based solutions that provide continuous video in HD 720p or higher, the ability to access recordings from remote locations, and the option to watch or download specific video clips by date and time.

Construction cameras not only provide a deterrent to theft — thieves are less likely to commit a crime if they see security cameras on your jobsite — they increase your odds of catching the culprit and provide documentation of the crime that you can use in court to recover your losses.

To learn more about TrueLook construction cameras with 24/7 HD security recording, see a live demo here.