The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that approximately 1 billion dollars of construction equipment is stolen each year in the United States.1 Even with modern advantages like 24/7 webcams and motion sensor detectors to trigger lighting, theft and vandalism is an increasing problem.
Job sites are generally easy targets because:
- Multiple pieces of equipment use the same keys
- Large unsecured areas are common
- Tools and supplies are often left out in the open
- Lumber is left out and not secured
- Metals (especially copper) and other supplies are not secured.
Many times the crimes are not planned, simply crimes of opportunity. Someone walking or driving by a site happens to notice tools left out at the end of a day, or spools of copper wire left out in plain sight.
Other times when crime is planned, the results can devastate an individual contractor.
In North Carolina not long ago, three men were arrested for stealing two work trucks, two trailers and two mini excavators from a construction company. In a separate incident four men were charged in Cleveland for stealing over a million dollars of construction equipment.
Besides targeting tools and machines, materials like lumber and copper make attractive targets, especially today with rising material prices and shortages due to Covid, etc.
Generally theft happens when job sites are not well monitored and when barriers have not been put in place. Too many entrances and exits can complicate security even when barriers and climb-deterring hardware is installed.
Another important area of concern is when a disgruntled worker walks off the site with tools or materials. Being present as a supervisor can make a huge difference in maintaining good working relationships as well as raise red flags when a worker or workers are dissatisfied. Having regular meetings with workers allows a boss to address problems quickly and lets workers know that they are also being monitored.
Loss of equipment leads to a loss of efficiency and therefore a loss of profit.
Andrew Lambert, a group program manager at Milwaukee Tool,…says industry research shows that 30 percent of tool and equipment purchases are made to replace lost or stolen items. Even when equipment hasn’t been stolen, it can be misplaced by workers on a construction site. Lambert said 35 percent of the typical worker’s time is considered nonproductive, and a majority of that time is spent looking for items needed to execute work.1
New technologies are giving contractors better tools to fight crime.
Common sense low-tech solutions help and need to be part of an overall security plan. Contractors should take advantage of asset ID tagging and barcodes, worksite barriers etc. Increasingly however, high-tech solutions are becoming more available, more effective, and more affordable.
Milwaukee Tool has its One-Key solution. It offers multiple approaches for different kinds of goals like bluetooth technology (something like Apple’s new Air Tags) for showing the last known location of an item and pinging your device as you get close. They have tags that are meant for harsh outdoor conditions as well as small tool tags.
One-Key also offers Geofencing. This alerts you when equipment walks away. You can create an invisible perimeter around any site and assign equipment to that place. When a tool assigned to one of your geofences is seen outside of it, you’ll be notified.
Pro-Vigil is a company that offers remote video monitoring along with artificial intelligence to identify sounds and distinguish between something like breaking glass verses canvass flapping in the wind. Its motion activated system turns on lights, alarms and plays recorded announcements to scare off intruders.
These high-tech solutions to construction theft might have been too expensive in the past to be practical for many contractors. Over recent years, not only have costs come down, effectiveness of these systems has increased. When factoring in the rising costs of materials and machinery along with the downtime associated with idled workers, the cost benefit ratio has made considering high-tech security options a must.