For all types of buildings, construction sites can be busy, crowded places. Usually, temporary fencing and safety barriers are all that separate tools, equipment, and material from open areas and access points.


Whether commercial or residential, any given type of construction will require thousands upon thousands of dollars of structural-grade components and materials. Workers need to have easy access to these essentials to complete a job, but this can also create attractive circumstances for thieves.

On-site construction theft is a common and expensive problem. On average, these thefts amount to nearly $6000 in losses per incident. This amount quickly increases to $40,000 or greater when heavy equipment and vehicles are targeted. Each year, regional losses due to site construction thefts quickly add up to many millions of dollars.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the National Equipment Register, construction site crime is costing between $300 million and $1 billion annually.

Rising prices for building materials like lumber and the demand for more single-family homes are reported to be major factors in increased construction material thefts. Compounding this are labor shortages, permit backlogs, and supply chain issues that often leave construction sites sitting idle. Without proper preventive measures, this creates very attractive and profitable opportunities for thieves.

The Biggest Construction Site Targets

Metals, particularly copper, have always been popular targets for thieves who can quickly turn a high profit through underground scrap dealers and recyclers. Lumber has also become a popular target because of skyrocketing demand and prices.

Although stolen building materials are a commonly reported issue, fewer than 12 percent of incidents involve material and component theft. Thieves are more likely to target tools, which account for nearly 40 percent of incidents.

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Many of these items can be quickly grabbed or hauled away and sold to private buyers with limited traceability. Heavy construction equipment is the second most common target. Vehicle parts and accessories are the least common but still add up to nearly five percent. In general, thieves are most likely to strike sites that lack sufficient barriers and choose items that are easy to remove from the site and offer the highest market value.

Loose, gapped, and uncovered fencing, allow potential thieves to easily survey targets and identify access points. Materials, tools, and equipment that are visible and unsecured will quickly attract theft attempts. Vehicles parked outside of the site barrier, poorly lit areas, and lack of surveillance cameras will also create favorable circumstances for thieves.

Apart from stealing conventional construction equipment and materials, thieves will also target fuel, batteries, and generators, as well as computer hardware and other office equipment from site trailers.

How To Prevent Theft On Construction Sites

Even as theft continues to be a problem in all regions and all types of building sites, there are practices that can help significantly reduce vulnerabilities and losses. Reinforcing barriers, posting warning signs, and reducing the visibility of the worksite are low-cost but highly effective measures.

They prevent potential thieves from identifying targets and strategizing. When the site is inactive, lighting the permitter, locking away tools, and strategic parking of larger equipment to obscure material supplies and smaller tools are effective as well.

Conventional security measures, including surveillance systems and cameras, especially at entry points and access roads, and posting security guards are highly recommended as preventative practices. On average, a very slim minority of stolen property is recovered following a theft incident, which is why deterring thieves from the outset should be a priority.

To increase the likelihood of stolen item recovery, utilizing an equipment tracking system and indelibly marking tools are recommended practices.

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