Contractors can protect against construction site theft

This is the latest in a series of articles that will regularly appear on from Kenosha Police Department Crime Prevention Unit Officers Jeff Wamboldt and Ron Francis:

As copper and other metals continue to rise in price, so does construction site theft. Metals are only one area of concern according to former new home builder, Rob Wikstrom of Anstrom Developers. “Wire, copper, and tools are favorite targets of thieves.  I once had someone break into a house while it was under construction and steal the compressor right out of the basement.”

Construction site theft is literally a big business. Industry experts estimate annual losses at roughly $1 billion. Contractors, equipment dealers, insurance companies, home owners, and employees all suffer when job sites are vandalized or equipment and materials are stolen.

An estimated 90 percent of all thefts take place between 6 pm Friday and 6 am Monday, when heavy equipment, tools, appliances, and scrap metal may be left unprotected. Holidays are the next most popular time. Prevention is the key. Homeowners and contractors should:


  •  Talk with the community, specifically neighbors and homeowner associations where construction is occurring, about ways to protect work sites. One example would be to report suspicious behavior, such as the removal of equipment and materials at odd times, to the police.
  • Work with local law enforcement by providing after-hour contact information, signing a standing “No Consent” for violations, and prosecuting when possible.
  • Post signs such as “Private Property,” “No Trespassing,” and “Security Cameras in Use.”
  • Search vehicles leaving the site.
  • Offer rewards for information leading to prosecution.
  • Change security locks often, and check the site on weekends and holidays.
  • Employ a reputable security company and secure all equipment, tools, and keys.
  • Notify law enforcement about suspicious activity.
  • Use “Just-in-Time” delivery. Install appliances and metals, such as copper, at the end of the job – after the doors have been installed and the site secured.

Install Security Devices

  • Video cameras are cost effective and portable. They can be accessed and monitored remotely, thereby increasing the likelihood of apprehension and prosecution. They also help eliminate unsafe working conditions and act as a deterrent.
  • Mark equipment using logos, distinctive paint, ID numbers, and die stamps on all machines, tools, and movable property.
  • Install GPS devices on key equipment, vehicles, and materials.
  • Photograph and inventory the site often. Keep records of all property and serial numbers.
  • Install locking gas caps, anti-theft devices, kill switches, fuel cutoffs, and alarms.

Manage Employees

  • Conduct criminal background checks.
  • Have a “Zero Tolerance” policy for internal thefts.
  • Require ID badges.
  • Include employee search clauses in contracts.

Theft and vandalism at construction sites is not new. It is a national problem, affecting Kenosha just like other parts of the country. The industry must take the lead to limit or eliminate these incidents by making it difficult for perpetrators to succeed.

In today’s world, everyone must be concerned about security. Following the suggestions above will make the construction site a “hard target.” Investing in security measures up front will save time, resources, and money.

The Kenosha Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit offers security site surveys for homes, businesses, and even construction sites. To schedule a survey, call (262) 657-3937, or email

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