Construction thieves targeting job sites
October 2, 2006
The tools of the trade are an essential part of a construction contractor’s livelihood. But a recent string of construction site thefts in the Truckee-Tahoe region has contractors dealing with tens of thousands of dollars in property loss.
Truckee police are investigating a slew of thefts in the Gray’s Crossing development off Prosser Dam Road in early September. Locked tool boxes were allegedly broken into and just over $50,000 worth of hand and power tools were stolen, according to police reports.
Truckee Police Lt. Randy Fenn said police are working on a couple of leads in response to the thefts. Police are working with the Placer County and Nevada County Sheriff’s Departments because of similar thefts in those areas, he said.
The number of reported thefts is unusual, especially for Truckee. Fenn said police have also been working with the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program of Northern California.
“The problem is shockingly bad,” said Vicki Schlechter, executive director of Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program, which is based in Sacramento. “We are losing everything. From lumber to metal… they’re ripping copper out of houses.”
She said Sacramento police recently arrested a suspect involving $100,000 in stolen copper from a construction site.
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The mountainous region of Truckee and North Lake Tahoe is an easy target for thieves, and since it’s a remote area, they may often return to the same site, Schlechter said.
Fenn said the contractors working on rural sites “probably have a false sense of security” because of the location and don’t lock up tools or secure equipment that
could easily be driven away.
The tools stolen from the Gray’s Crossing site were locked in large metal containers, but that did not deter the thieves. The alleged thieves used torches to cut their way inside the containers, according to Jared Northon, Gray’s Crossing construction manager.
Being aware of the site is important to avoid theft, Schlechter said.
“All you have to do (to steal from a construction site) is put a hard hat on,” she said.
“The contractor needs to make crime control more of a priority.”
To help prevent theft, Schlechter said contractors should lock up tools when not working on the job, use motion sensors, park vehicles strategically without keys in the ignition, and check the property on weekends and after hours.
She said tools and other construction property should be marked with the construction company’s name, phone number, and driver’s license number, otherwise recovered property ends up in the law enforcement warehouses.