How To Catch Construction Site Theft Using A Hidden Camera

Construction theft is really big business that even rivals illegal mafia businesses. Industry experts in the insurance business estimate annual losses at roughly $1 billion in equipment theft and vandalism.

Contractors, equipment dealers, insurance companies, equipment manufacturers are all at a loss when job sites are vandalized or equipment and materials are ripped-off.

The phenomenon of theft and vandalism of construction sites is not new and has plagued the construction industry for decades. Much of this theft has to do with the economy and low salaries and also the ease at which illegal operations can be conducted. It’s a national problem that will not go away. Whether we like it or not, this is here to stay and what the industry must do is try to limit the incidents as much as possible by making it difficult for the perpetrators to succeed.

A stolen piece of equipment or material can shut the job down temporarily. Insurance costs are continuously rising due to widespread theft and how easy it is to commit.

Rental companies may refuse to rent to people who don’t properly guard their assets. Company reputations can be severely damaged through vandal actions or repeated thefts. Failure to act in a pre-emptive way to avoid theft and vandalism is irresponsible and unnecessary.

An estimated 90% of all equipment thefts take place between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday. Holidays and week nights are next.

  • Sites are most vulnerable on weekends
  • Heavy equipment most likely to stay intact
  • Tools are most popular
  • Appliances are popular as well
  • Scrap metal/copper prices are high so theft increases

So what can be done to curb the growth of construction job-site theft?

Surveillance Cameras – The idea of being caught on video is a great deterrent to theft.

  • Cost effective
  • Can be transferred from one jobsite to the next.
  • Video streams are transferred to any location in the world using a standard PC.
  • May include motion detection and two-way audio.
  • Remote accessibility – Can be linked to a website to give the public the ability to view the progress of a project.
  • Increase possibility of apprehension – When properly used they do result in deterrence, detection, and prosecution.
  • Security and Safety – Monitoring worksites can also be used to spot unsafe working conditions and/or procedures.

Many builders invest in a Portable Hidden Camera DVR Surveillance SystemPortable Video Surveillance Systemwhich cost some money but in the long run is well worth it. These systems are easily moved from jobsite to jobsite and can be easily hidden. This unit is the ultimate covert portable receiving/recording system because it is self-powered and gives the ability to record images directly to a 160GB hard drive. Windows based operating system. This system has 2 independent 2.4 GHz receivers with 4 selectable channels on each built-in and/or 4 wired inputs. Cameras can be viewed via the Internet from anywhere in the world.

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Owners/builders must be committed to stopping theft and vandalism on their sites.

  • Talk to the community and neighborhood associations you are building in for their support. 
  • Work along side your local Crime Prevention Unit within the Police Department
    • Fill out an Operation Notification form and post the sticker in a visible area.
    • Contractors should keep excellent records, have after-hour contacts, and be willing to prosecute.

Post signs

  • Contractor’s and builder’s contact information.
  • Rewards Program Signs – Use on gates, buildings, perimeter fencing, tool sheds, and job trailers.
  • Reward Decals – These highly visible decals can be used on gang boxes, trailers, small equipment, storage sheds, and large tools.
  • “Private Property”
  • “Security Cameras in Use”
  • “No Trespassing”
  • Post signs that vehicles may be searched.

Access Control  Contractors need to take extra precautions to secure their construction sites.

  • Install locks as soon as possible.
  • Challenge strangers on your property or job sites. Show them you are on the alert.  
  • Keep entrances and gates to a minimum.  Lock gates when you are done for the day.
  • Use a reputable Security Guard company.
  • Wear identification badges with companies’ logo.
  • Include employee search clause in contracts.
  • Key control – If you store equipment keys on a key board, have someone take the keyboard home.
  • Change the padlocks on the gates and around the site several times during the construction. You never who or how many people have keys.
  • Use a chain link fence to secure the perimeter of the site.
  • Walk the perimeter of the site and check for breaches where someone could enter the site, then repair it.
  • Have someone check out the site several times over the weekend.
  • Secure storage sheds with good locks. 

Equipment Security



  • Mark It!

    • Put numbers in two spots: hidden and obvious.
    • Paint your larger equipment a distinctive color and include your name or logo.  Paint tools all the same color.
    • Paint the last six digits of the Product Identification Number (PIN) on the roof.
    • Mark your equipment, metal pipe and moveable property. i.e. weld business name on property.
    • Utilize the driver’s license number of a principal in the firm preceded by “AZ”.
    • Die Stamp: Permanently mark tools and equipment with the blow of a hammer. Electric engravers can also be used.


  • Record It!

    • Inventory equipment frequently and store it so it is obvious if something is missing.
    • Keep records. Record serial numbers and numbers you applied.
    • Take color photos.




  • Protect It!

    • Use locking gas caps and oil caps on equipment and vehicles.  Lock cabs.
    • Disable vehicles with hidden switches.
    • Cluster equipment. Plan to end the day with near empty tanks.
    • Keep equipment and supplies locked up in a securable storage shed.
    • Remove the keys from large equipment and vehicles.
    • Re-key your equipment – most construction equipment is commonly keyed.
    • Don’t leave equipment in remote areas.
    • Install anti-theft devices: fuel cutoffs, hydraulic bypasses, track locks or alarms.
    • Keep equipment and supplies locked up in a securable storage shed.

      GPS Tracking - WorldTracker GPRS Extreme 15 Second Updates
    • Install GPS Tracker in large construction vehicles left on site like the one shown above.

Communicate



  • Talk to your new neighbors because they could be potential witnesses of future crimes.
  • Advise local homeowners and businesses owners of contractors contact information.
  • Offer rewards to citizens and employees.  Use the Silent Witness program.
  • Create partnerships with home owners in partially completed subdivision.
  • Utilize an employee rewards programs – reward for not allowing crimes to occur.

Other Theft Prevention Tips 

  • Conduct criminal background checks on all staff, contractors, sub-trades, and security guards.
  • Zero tolerance policy on internal theft and allowing theft to occur.
  • Security Guards should be visible and if possible use a marked trailer.
  • Just-in-time delivery – install appliances at end of the job.
  • Copper – theft of this metal is very high.  Secure all metals and if possible install at the end of the job.
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