Deterring Theft of Jobsite Materials

The theft of materials and equipment from jobsites is a crime on the rise, according to the National Equipment Register (NER). Whether thieves take power tools, heavy machinery, or even building materials, construction sites have become common targets for thieves.

The NER estimates as much as $1 billion in equipment is stolen from jobsites annually. Already a significant loss, that estimate does not include stolen tools and materials or the hidden costs of lost income due to delays and employee turnover due to low morale. A firm understanding of these crimes and implementing deterrents can prevent or mitigate the likelihood of losses to jobsite theft.

Important Considerations

Often jobsite theft is a form of employee theft, with subcontractors and employees familiar with the layout site and value of materials. Temporary or project-based employees may not have a sense of company loyalty and may be more likely to walk away with tools or see an opportunity to break in by night.

Messy, disorganized jobsites are easy targets for thieves. Theft is slower to be discovered in a messy site, culprits are harder to catch, and weak inventory practices can make the claims process much more difficult.

Best Practices for Deterring Jobsite Theft

  • Lock up tools and equipment when not in use. A check-in/check-out system for tools and equipment can serve as a significant deterrent for employee theft.
  • Know who is on site. Tracking schedules, arrivals, and departures of employees and delivery personnel can increase accountability and limit opportunities for theft.
  • Use GPS tracking for large equipment as a means of both deterrent and recovery.
  • Implement monitoring techniques. Remote access security cameras with wide coverage and HD video have the potential to recoup their value with the theft they catch and deter. Management should also have an active presence on the site, checking in and walking the site at unpredictable intervals.
  • Keep detailed inventory counts, including serial numbers for equipment and avoid keeping excess materials onsite.
  • Secure the site. Install fencing (potentially with visibility obscuring properties), lock storage, and install “no trespassing” signs. Motion activated alarm systems can also be used as an alert for after-hours theft.

As a forensic accounting firm, SDC CPAs has worked with jobsite loss claims as well as employee theft. Sufficient security and record-keeping can be the best tools for companies looking to protect against losses.

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