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4 Ways to Prevent Dangerous Crimes on Construction Sites

Posted by Ryan Cox on Dec 21, 2021

Unfortunately, construction site thefts have grown more dangerous. Bold thieves do whatever they need to do to achieve their goals. They don’t care about the damage they leave behind. As if worrying about construction site worker safety isn’t enough, construction companies also contend with criminals who can and will resort to violence.

That’s one problem that construction sites face. The another is catalytic converter thefts.

The Massive Increase of Catalytic Converter Thefts

There’s no question that construction site thefts have a costly impact. But the crooks’ nervy actions of late are causing loss and damage on construction sites that are worth thousands of dollars. KOAA shares what happens at one construction site. In watching the video captured on a Ring camera, you can hear the sound of the crooks using a tool to remove a catalytic converter from trucks. This could render the vehicle undrivable.

Criminals can resell catalytic converters for thousands of dollars. The amount they go for depends on the metal. Often, they trade for four and five figures per ounce especially rhodium, palladium, and platinum. Catalytic converters tend to have around 3 to 7 grams of these expensive metals.

The growing number of catalytic converter thefts is creating a shortage in replacement parts. In so doing, the price for metals on the market has climbed. Not only do the vehicles have a missing catalytic converter but also in some cases the vehicle is totaled.

How much of a problem is catalytic converter theft? The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports an average of 108 catalytic converter thefts per month in 2018. The following year, the number of stolen converters jumped to 282 per month. That’s not the worst of it as 2020 and 2021 tell a different story.

The number of stolen converters swelled to an average of 1,203 per month in 2020. The year ended on a bad note as 2,347 catalytic converters were stolen just in the month of December 2020. Unfortunately, 2021 isn’t faring much better. A New York Post story says the number of catalytic converter thefts in the five boroughs in 2021 through October is more than four times what it was for the same period in 2020!

Police say these thefts are greatly underreported. They’ve caught several suspects who admitted to stealing more than 1,000 catalytic converters. The Colorado Springs Department told KOAA that there were only 3 thefts in 2019, 106 in 2020, and now 300 in 2021. That’s not all they stole from the construction site.

The Growing Problem of Dangerous Construction Site Theft

These brash thieves in Colorado Springs also stole pipe fittings, tools, and equipment. They spent nine minutes on one construction site causing damage in the thousands of dollars that will affect the business for months.

Another construction site in the same city has also experienced problems. In this scenario, a law enforcement officer patrolling the area caught the criminals in action. In doing proactive policing, the officer pulled up behind the suspect’s vehicle. Rather than just taking off, the driver rammed his truck into the police vehicle causing damage on the front as well as the crook’s own tailgate.

When they’re willing to be that violent with police officers, what will they do to the average citizen? Another construction site company owner said that he has caught people about to steal from his site. They don’t simply walk away. They are carrying weapons and making threats.

There is a big difference in how the judicial system will treat a suspect when they’re caught committing a simple property crime and stealing property as opposed to committing a violent crime and assaulting a police officer.

The high cost of materials like lumber has made construction sites a bigger target. Apparently, some of these crooks are relentless to the point they watch the site for a fresh batch of materials. And that forces the construction company to pass down the increase in the price of the building to the consumer.

KOAA News reports construction companies in the Pikes Peak Region of Colorado have lost $1.04 million from construction site thefts between January and August 2021. The same news story reveals that El Paso has more than 100 similar cases totaling almost half a million in losses.

It’s not your imagination. The pandemic has seen an enormous increase in construction site burglary. Obtaining the metals in catalytic converters is only part of it. Another contributing factor is the cost of materials like lumber multiplying.

Based on statistics, Propmodo indicates the most common cause of theft on construction sites is due to “security negligence.” They lack adequate construction site security, and they are dimly lit.

4 Ways to Prevent Dangerous Crimes on Construction Sites

Here are four ways to deter construction site theft. The more of these you do, the more layers your security will have. If crooks break through one, the other barriers will help slow down their efforts. In some cases, they may leave and go find another site with fewer barriers.

1. Add a Fence on the Construction Site

Every construction site is different. You may or may not be able to put up a fence around the perimeter. However, if you can, set it up so that you have a single-entry point. This will help lower the risk of trespassing on your construction site. Besides that, when you have only one entry point, it will give you more control over who comes and goes on the construction site including deliveries and pick-ups.

Even though intruders can cut the fence or climb it, you could add another obstacle by using barbed wires. The harder you make it for people to get on the construction site, the more likely they will leave yours alone and look elsewhere for an easier entry.

2. Put up Proper Lighting

As the Propmodo article explains, dimly lit construction sites tend to attract criminals. One of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective options for security is lighting. Lights act as a deterrent when no one is on the property. Lighting also makes it challenging for them to hide while they vandalize or steal, so they tend to find another property or business to raid.

The right kind of lighting matters. There’s more to lighting than brightness. Color and hue can also affect its effectiveness. Consider meeting with a security expert who can evaluate your construction site and make lighting recommendations. It will also help you avoid overspending or underspending on lights. There are a lot of factors to review when it comes to effective lighting.

3. Use an Asset Management System

You may already be dealing with a shortage of workers. The last thing you need is for them to spend too much time on tasks that can be done quickly with automation. Many construction companies spend more time than necessary in locating inventory, equipment, and other assets.

Just like vehicles, assets need regular servicing and maintenance. Without an inventory tracking system, it’ll be challenging to determine what needs repairing or servicing. What if your workers use heavy equipment and it won’t start? This causes your project to lose hours of productivity while you search for a replacement.

It’s possible you have a replacement. It could take more than a few days to get to the construction site. As a result, you will either need to rent equipment or stop the work. Both have a cost. An asset tracking system can prevent this from happening. It’ll help you ensure you have the right asset at the right time. And they’ll remain useable as the system will notify you when it’s time to take it in for servicing.

A project manager must maximize every worker and every asset especially with the labor shortage and the high cost of materials. An asset tracking system will reduce the risk for injuries as it will track an equipment’s health and you won’t lose precious billable time from sending missing or broken assets to a site.

4. Invest in Remote Video Surveillance

With the growing number of dangerous criminals visiting construction sites, it requires investing in the best security system. You need something more effective than a traditional construction site security system. These tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Just like the stories reported earlier, the people overseeing the construction sites caught the problems long after the suspects have fled.

A construction site needs a strong security system that will help deter theft. A proactive security system for construction sites is video surveillance security with remote monitoring and video analytics. This proactive security system provides your construction site with two sets of eyes between the video analytics and the trained operating monitors. You’re getting the best of both worlds by combining humans with technology. This allows them to catch potential problems before anything happens.

A study from UNC Charlotte has found that more than 80 percent of thieves check for visible security like an alarm or video surveillance before breaking in. Therefore, remote video surveillance is one of the most effective crime deterrents and it delivers a fast ROI.

The advantage video surveillance has over other security is that your construction site will have eyes on the entire site all at once. Moreover, the visibility of the cameras works as a preventive measure especially when you post signs indicating the area is under surveillance.

The monitoring operators, who are located in a remote location, can see intruders approaching the construction site and respond. They can issue a warning on the audio speaker system. If this doesn’t deter them, the operator can track their movements through the monitors while calling law enforcement.

Construction sites have a responsibility for the safety of workers, visitors, and vendors. The cost of not having the best security can potentially put an innocent person’s life at risk as these criminals are violent and dangerous. Video surveillance offers the highest level of security for your construction site. Best of all, security cameras with remote monitoring can get an ROI within four months.

To learn more about construction security, pick up your copy of the construction security and safety best practices guide. This construction security guide discusses industry challenges and offers solutions. If you’d like to know more, feel free to contact us.