In 2016, there were over 11,000 reported construction-site equipment thefts in the United States, which accounted for roughly $400 million in losses. Even more alarming is that only 21% of stolen equipment was recovered in 2016.
The resulting financial loss due to theft and the meager theft recovery numbers make clear that equipment theft is a serious issue for construction sites large and small across the U.S. Criminals manage to steal equipment undetected due in part to lax construction-site security, where no more than a fence stands between equipment and perpetrators.
If you’re a site manager, or the owner of expensive construction equipment parked onsite, it’s important to implement security measures to deter and catch thieves trying to make off with equipment.
Opportunistic thieves are clustered in areas where construction is most prevalent.
Texas was the number one state in the country for construction-site theft, and also the number one state in the country for total construction in 2016. This is a trend that follows for North Carolina, Florida, and California—the next three highest states for equipment theft and construction activity. In other words, an influx of industrial equipment in a particular region gives rise to more equipment theft, even if a region was previously safe and crime-free.
Most theft occurs directly at the work site, where there is generally a low level of security. A lack of security measures means that criminals can make their way on the property, take control of the equipment, and steal it with relative ease. The second most common theft location is the equipment owner’s premises, or a lot rented for equipment storage, where there is often a higher level of security than wide-open construction sites. But even on equipment lots, physical security is usually no more than a gate or fence. Trailer theft is the third most common form of equipment loss.
Like car theft, construction equipment thieves often steal in the hopes of quickly flipping the equipment. It seems that there is a growing demand for used construction equipment, whether it is stolen or not.
Criminals value ease of mobility when stealing equipment.
It’s somewhat impractical to steal a multi-ton excavator, which is why smaller, easier to move construction equipment is stolen most often.
Riding and garden mowers get swiped in nearly half of all equipment thefts. Riding mowers are generally compact and lightweight compared to heavy-duty equipment, making them easier to stow on a trailer or ride off with. Skid-steer and backhoe loaders—which are rather large pieces of equipment, especially compared to mowers—are also a target for burglars. Though loaders are heavy, they are compact and transportable. After loaders, compact, utility, and agricultural tractors are stolen third most often.
While ease of mobility is the main factor determining what equipment is stolen, value is also a top priority. But, again, criminals are limited: the largest equipment is usually the most valuable, but is simply impossible to move. According to the National Equipment Register, the average value of stolen equipment is $29,258. New loaders are priced around $20,000, suggesting that loaders offer criminals the most value for a reasonable amount of effort. On top of this, of the more than 11,000 construction equipment stolen, almost 2,000 were the latest model year. As with cars, equipment suffers value depreciation. Since older model year equipment is less valuable than newer equipment, they aren’t a priority for thieves.
Security cameras can improve construction-site security.
A fence around the perimeter of a construction site isn’t enough to deter criminals. Those that want to steal construction equipment are obviously unfazed by fences and “Keep Out” signs. But security cameras are a more powerful form of deterrence and protection against theft.
Installed by security professionals, a commercial security camera system can greatly improve construction-site safety. Cameras placed in strategic locations can catch criminals in the act. If a crime takes place, you’ll be able to give authorities a verifiable record of what happened, including exactly what was stolen and what the perpetrator looks like. In addition, the presence of security cameras can be enough to stop some criminals from attempting theft—burglars are less likely to commit a crime if they know security cameras are present.
With security cameras, you can employ professional video monitoring and video verification, which can help you keep an eye on the construction site 24/7. Video monitoring agents are able view live security camera footage to detect a crime in progress, and quickly dispatch police to the scene. Video monitoring has the potential to eliminate the theft altogether, as it gives police an opportunity to stop the crime before it is successful.
Security cameras, coupled with video monitoring, provide an extra level of protection that a standalone fence can’t offer. Implementing surveillance at the construction site can significantly increase security.
Remember to secure construction equipment by disabling them.
Equipment often sits idle at construction sites for long periods of time as work takes place over the course of months or even years. Removing the key from the ignition is not always enough to eliminate the chance of theft.
Many machines have hydraulic cylinder locks or hydraulic system lockouts, which, when enabled, prevent equipment from moving. Taking this preventative measure can be an afterthought, but it’s an important step to take to ensure equipment is not stolen.
Staging equipment is also a good idea. Staged equipment is less likely to be stolen because it is set in place, essentially disabled.
Most importantly, unload equipment from trailers. Equipment left in trailers is commonly stolen, and it’s an easy way to travel with stolen equipment undetected.
Construction equipment theft is a costly problem, which is compounded by the fact that 80% of stolen equipment is never recovered. Work-site security is lacking in many areas, but it can be bolstered with security cameras and video monitoring, which has the potential to deter criminals and/or increase the odds of recovering stolen machines. Contact the experts at Bay Alarm, who can help increase your outdoor construction security!