In 2022, the National Equipment Register reports that the number of jobsite theft incidents has risen steadily over the past five years. During Labor Day weekend alone, construction companies collectively experienced a total loss value of $7,753,761 since 2018.
Statistics are similar for Thanksgiving weekend, Independence Day weekend, and other holidays, when construction sites are generally left unattended. Theft is a serious, growing issue in our industry.
Taking proactive preventability measures is especially important today given the rising costs of materials and equipment. Construction companies should use a variety of theft prevention tools and tactics to protect their investments.
Many are turning to technology to help mitigate the risk of theft and keep jobsites safer hand more secure. These modern solutions can increase jobsite visibility and shield companies against theft both by internal staff and outside sources.
Jobsite items most likely to be stolen
Construction jobsites are typically full of expensive things. Building materials, tools, and heavy equipment can all be targets of theft.
However, there are several types of property that are more likely to be stolen for various reasons. They can be easy to transport or resell, or they are especially rare and valuable.
The following items are commonly stolen from construction sites, and thorough theft prevention processes may be required to secure them.
There is a high demand for copper, which can be sold for a high price to commercial scrap dealers. Thieves typically strip copper wiring or piping from electrical and plumbing work, causing significant project damage on top of the loss in materials.
Lumber fetches a fair price and is easy to transport. It’s often stored unsecured in laydown areas, making it an easy target.
Thieves may target power tools which are easy to resell on consumer sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
Small hand tools
Small hand tools are less expensive than power tools, but they are easy to steal and the cost of their loss adds up quickly over time.
Bulldozers and other heavy equipment
Heavy equipment is more difficult to remove from a jobsite than smaller tools or building materials, but stolen bulldozers, forklifts, and other construction machinery often yield high profits.
High-tech solutions to jobsite theft
From surveillance to tracking, technology can be implemented in many ways to prevent theft from the jobsite. The following technologies are commonly used by construction companies.
Drones aren’t just for deliveries. They can be used for jobsite security and surveillance.
Drones equipped with cameras are programmed to monitor construction sites and the surrounding area. The live camera feed can be accessed remotely by security professionals at any time, and historical data can be reviewed in the event of a theft incident.
Drone footage is more dynamic than the video data captured by stationary cameras. Because they are constantly moving they cannot be easily bypassed, and their presence alone may be enough to deter thieves from entering jobsite premises.
This technology is best utilized on large-scale projects that are cost-prohibitively difficult to police manually.
Implementing global positioning system (GPS) tracking technology is a surefire way to know exactly where your equipment is at any time. A tracking device is installed on the equipment, and owners can log into an app or web portal to access its real-time location remotely.
GPS tracking acts as a theft deterrent, or in the event of a theft, helps authorities locate and recover the stolen equipment quickly. It can also be useful for general working purposes, helping project managers and other construction professionals keep track of equipment usage across all active projects.
GPS tracking is most cost-effective when used for large, mobile equipment like heavy machinery and construction vehicles.
Similar to GPS, radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking is an alternate method for locating equipment. This technology is often used to “tag” pets and prevent theft in the retail industry.
Construction companies use RFID technology to instantly track the location of materials, equipment, and even employees on the jobsite. RFID tags can be scanned to prove original ownership if lost equipment is recovered.
While its range may not be as extensive as GPS tracking and therefore it is not quite as effective for locating assets that leave the work area, RFID generally uses less energy and may be more cost effective for small or mid-sized construction companies.
According to Wikipedia, a geo-fence is “a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area” that works via GPS or RFID. Using this technology, construction companies can create a digital boundary around construction sites or warehouses and set up a system to receive notifications whenever a mobile device—such as a smartphone—or specific piece of equipment enters or leaves.
Geo-fencing notifies stakeholders or security personnel immediately when an unauthorized individual enters the jobsite during off hours or when assets equipped with tracking capabilities leave the designated boundary. The earlier a theft is detected, the greater the chance the stolen property will be recovered, so these notifications can make a major difference by catching potential offenders in action.
For construction companies that work in high-risk areas where jobsite theft is common, geo-fencing is a wise investment.
Keyless ignition for heavy equipment
Keyless ignition technology eliminates the use of physical keys and reduces unauthorized use of construction equipment. Instead of keys, equipment outfitted with a keyless ignition system requires the use of a digital fob or keypad before the equipment can be started.
Traditional ignition systems can be compromised fairly easily, but keyless ignition is much more difficult to override. Only authorized operators can power up the equipment, and tampering with the system will cause an alarm to sound while security personnel are digitally notified. Operators can also be assigned unique codes and pin numbers, so stakeholders know exactly who accessed the equipment at any given time.
Keyless ignition is a significant modification to most equipment, but the safety and security benefits are well worth the cost for construction companies that own large fleets of heavy equipment.
Increasing Jobsite visibility with technology
Increasing jobsite visibility in general is another valid strategy for preventing jobsite theft. In addition to tracking the location of equipment and making it more difficult for unauthorized personnel to access, having a clear view of what’s happening onsite each day keeps stakeholders aware and informed about the status of their company’s assets.
Real-time production tracking software
Digital production tracking software gives project managers a visual aid for tracking material and equipment use. Field crews log details from the jobsite using mobile devices, and the software automatically collects and organizes that information into clear report formats.
Project managers can see where equipment is and understand how materials are being used at a glance. They’ll have better visibility than they would with pen and paper reporting and can catch potential issues quickly.
They can also use digital software to track project progress in general. They’ll know what personnel was onsite at any given time each workday.
With digital production tracking, construction companies improve more than jobsite security. They’ll be able to closely measure productivity and better understand how their field teams work. They can use this improved data to build better bids, reduce work delays, and increase profitability.
At Raken, we offer comprehensive digital productivity tracking solutions. Schedule a demo today to learn more about our field-first solutions.
Webcam monitoring systems help improve security on the jobsite. While they can be used for safety and quality monitoring as well, webcams are particularly useful for preventing jobsite theft.
Stationary cameras may not be as dynamic as drones as described above, but webcam monitoring is often cost effective for construction companies of any size. Webcam systems make it easy for security professionals to monitor multiple jobsites from a remote location.