Your project has been the target of jobsite theft, you've filed a police report but things don't sound very hopeful. Is there anything you can do to increase the chances of recovering your stolen tools, materials or equipment? Fortunately there is.
We're a Boise based private investigation firm with over 15 years of construction management experience. We know “thief psychology”, here we share how to recover stolen items and how to prevent future theft.
That's right, thieves love running off with excavators and skidsteers just as much as they enjoy pilfering small tools and project materials. Up to $1 billion in heavy equipment gets stolen annually (NER), and the residential construction sector suffers tool & material losses of $1 to $2 billion per year (GIS).
What do thieves do with all this loot? They make great money selling it for a fraction of your cost while you scramble to replace the items and get your project back on track. Consider that if thieves part out the small tools or materials they took from you for just one or two hundred dollars, they might be making as much as $100/hour. Consider this real, yet very typical, theft case below.
Idaho Jobsite Theft Case
This Idaho builder is fortunate, as most jobsite theft is never recovered and the thieves never get caught...
An employee of a local home builder stole $200 in tile and a $900 glass panel from a jobsite, and windows from other jobsites. He then sold the tile to an unwitting, local resident for $200. The local purchased the tile for a home project, then posted the extra tile for sale online 6-12 months later. Another employee of the builder happened to see the ad and recognized the tile. The police were contacted, an investigation was completed, and the employee committing the thefts was arrested (full story here).
Unofficial studies show that a large percentage of jobsite thefts are perpetrated by employees or subcontractors working directly on the job. They know when the job is vacant, where materials and tools are being stored, and sometimes even have privileged access. What's more, because they do work on the job, their presence 'after hours' doesn't spark suspicion to neighbors or occasional law enforcement.
A jobsite theft investigation should start with employees and subcontractors who have been working on the job, then filter out to workers on neighboring projects in the development.
While many jobsite thefts never get reported to the authorities, of those that do, most get no further than a police report. Lack of obvious clues to follow and a daily fresh case load make it impossible for local police to devote valuable resources to these cases. As a result, most stolen goods are never recovered.
A reputable private investigator can dramatically improve the chances of recovery with a prompt, thorough investigation. Instead of waiting for clues or leads to surface over time, they actively identify and track them down.
Time is of the essence when your jobsite has been compromised. Following these important steps can improve your chances of recovering stolen tools, equipment and materials.
1. Try not to disturb the scene. It's important for law enforcement and investigators to view it as “fresh” as possible with little disturbance. This will help their investigation.
2. Take an accurate inventory. It's important to have a clear list of what's missing and where it was before it was taken.
3. Identify points of entry, and all areas that show signs of disturbance.
4. File a police report – ALWAYS. Even if it's just a few hundred dollars in missing items. This will make things easier down the line should your items be discovered.
5. Communicate locally. Notify pawn shops, used tool & equipment stores, recyclers and used building material outlets such as Habitat Restore or Second Chance. Let them know what to watch for as thieves try to dump things quickly at some of these venues.
6. Hire an independent Private Investigator to track the case, as often law enforcement cannot devote dedicated resources to investigate.
One of the best ways to prevent jobsite theft is to perform pre-employment and pre-subcontract background checks. A $50 background check can prevent thousands of dollars worth of loss by keeping those with a history of theft off your team and your jobsites.
Tip: Don't use online background check websites, they often omit important data and contain serious errors that leave you vulnerable. Our nationwide background checks detect any criminal history anywhere in the US, and even detect aliases. (Read more here)
One of the main ways to prevent theft is to deter it. Here are a few quick tips that put into practice, can keep it from your future projects.
Lighting & signage. Whenever possible, keep a well lit jobsite with no trespassing and surveillance signs posted. Motion activated lights at night are also good deterrents.
Organization. Keeping a clean and well organized jobsite gives the sense that everything is actively accounted for, thus anything taken will be quickly noticed. Thieves prefer jobsites where missing items may go unnoticed for a while.
Cover materials. We all say 'out of sight, out of mind', and it's true, even for thieves. Indoors and outside, cover your materials every night. What's not seen driving by or peering through the windows is out of mind and stays on your job.
Secure tools and equipment. Don't leave tools and equipment unsecured. Tools should always be locked up securely and tool trailers should never be left on the job – thieves love to take them. Large equipment should be secured and preferably equipped with telemetry anti theft devices.
One of the Boise area's leading private investigation firms, we serve contractors throughout Southern Idaho with jobsite theft and employment fraud investigations. With over 15 years in construction management, you can depend on our expertise for theft recovery and fraud prevention. We answer our phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call today for a free consultation about your case.
Till next time!
Ben Pearson CPI
Steadfast Private Investigations