4 minutes reading time (703 words)

The Cost of What’s Lost: How to Avoid Job-site Theft


Rapidly growing in relevance, job-site theft is an epidemic affecting contractors throughout the nation. With very little regard for the implications of their practice, thieves would steal the shirt off your back if you weren’t wearing it.

Many contractors are skeptical about whether or not their job-site is at risk. According to a DEWALT study, thieves strike 95% of contractors at least once annually. While prevention can be costly, the losses you suffer are often far greater than the cost of the stolen goods.

Think of the damage a criminal does while yanking copper wire out of a wall. With copper’s resale value at $3 to $4 per pound, thieves are in a hurry to get as much as they can as quickly as possible.  The combination of increased costs, project delays, damage, and headaches from all the hassle should definitely get you thinking about prevention. Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t be targeted. The good news is that when bad things happen you can benefit from the lessons learned. We’ve taken the time to develop a list of prevention tips from our experts in the field that will help keep your job-site safe and secure.

Prevention Tips

Be smart about your trailer. Consider the bad luck of the contractor who had two trailers stolen from the job-site within weeks of one another. Fed up, he began parking his trailer at home each evening until a third trailer was stolen from his driveway. He finally gave in and leased a secured, gated spot. If you take your trailer home each evening, back it up against the house so the back door isn’t easily accessible. Other options include using high quality locks for trailer doors (instead of regular pad locks) and newer style trailer ball locks that are more effective than older versions.
Hold on tightly to your tools.  Ideally, you should take your tools home with you. If not, be very particular about the locks you use on your trailer. Also, try etching your tools with personal identifiers. Some contractors use distinctive fluorescent sprays on large items like ladders to easily distinguish theirs. All power tools have serial numbers, so you should keep a record of them. Take pictures of all your tools to know what is on your job-site. Get creative. Just remember, the goal is to deter theft.

Immobilize your mobile equipment.  We recognize that common keying saves time and money as long as one employee’s lost key doesn’t halt work. However, it’s important to remain two steps ahead of the job-site criminal whose keys could easily start your equipment. Block in your mobile equipment with your trailer. Record identifying numbers, or consider registering equipment through a private company such as National Equipment Register.

Make friends with local law enforcement.  Voice your concerns and allow law enforcement to be of service. Some localities will patrol your job-site for you. Consider giving them and nearby neighbors your contact information and the job-site’s authorized hours.

Install surveillance.  This one is pretty self-explanatory. Though it is costly and may not deter trespassers, it certainly will help uncover their identities.

Be smart with your trash.  Often, appliances are a target in new construction. Don’t put empty refrigerator, stove, microwave or dishwasher boxes at the curb or in your trash area. These are definite triggers for those thieves that are looking for a quick opportunity. If appliances are stolen, residual damage may be caused to the floors, doorways and counters of the house.

Beware of inside jobs.  Unfortunately, not all criminals are strangers. Keep an eye open for suspicious behavior among employees, and document anyone who enters or exits the premises. Order materials as you need them. Keep a list of your job-site inventory that documents each item and its cost. Ensure this list up to date, including recent additions. If a sub requests materials well before they are needed, be cautious.

Remember, you are not alone.  Trying to prevent what appears to be inevitable can be overwhelming. Recovery of stolen goods has a mere 10% to 15% success rate. But, with our collective efforts, we can keep thieves and vandals from making our business their business.

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