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Guide to Construction Site Theft Prevention: Deter Equipment & Tool Theft

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    Some of the hardest things to plan for in life are those that are unexpected. When considering the multitude of nuances that can be found on a construction site, it’s hard to plan for all the things that can go wrong. Theft is one of the most stressful things that construction site managers must consider. But there are ways to manage theft prevention.

    Causes of Theft

    There is an increasing problem regarding construction site equipment and material theft. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you can monitor activities 24/7, there are still issues regarding theft and amounts to a significant amount (over $1 billion) annually in terms of direct and indirect costs faced by construction companies. These costs have increased by at least 10% in the last 20 years and are expected to continue growing.

    The problem is not just losses from theft, but also replacing/renting equipment to maintain the project schedule. Downtime is another problem caused by theft. Delays are costly and insurance premiums soar as a result of claims for theft.

    However, there’s a general agreement that construction sites do make easy targets much of the time. This is because of the lack of proper theft prevention practices and security. Some of the leading causes of construction site theft are:

    • Poor and/or ineffective overall site security
    • Easy access to thieves by open cabs
    • Sharing the same keys for multiple pieces of equipment
    • Unsecured sites at night and the weekend
    • Lack of systems to identify products

    Thieves often target metal materials (such as copper) as frequently, if not more frequently, than equipment. This is a rampant problem in construction sites in the United States. However, no matter what thieves are after, the common belief — and reality — is that these sites make easy targets. As such, the key to prevent theft is to make it as hard as possible for thieves to quickly access and steal tools, equipment, and materials.

    Management and Policy Actions for Theft Prevention

    First, it’s necessary for management to actually “be” management. This means that employees must know that management is watching them. This can be done by making frequent comments about the job and progress made. Notes should be made and observations should be stated during meetings, which should be held regularly to address project details and recognize accomplishments. If employees know that management is watching them, it is harder to steal.

    It is also a good idea to schedule supply deliveries as-needed. This means an excess of supplies isn’t available for theft. Management will have to communicate with employees to ensure that the supplies needed are there when they are needed. Similarly, good records must be kept when supplies arrive on site. In fact, a paper trail is good for all things on a construction site because it indicates a sense of responsibility. This involves registering equipment, which can help in recovering and returning stolen equipment.

    Management must also enforce the theft prevention policy. If there isn’t one, it should be created and all people involved in the project need to be made aware of both the rules and consequences. A zero tolerance policy is important because it shows that you mean business and there are clear consequences. You may also get local law enforcement to perform extra patrols during off-work hours.

    Construction Site Modifications for Theft Prevention


    The most obvious is the installation of security cameras. These act as strong deterrents to would-be thieves. You should also make sure that these cameras are both visible and invisible. The visible security cameras are a strong deterrent. The invisible security cameras catch what the visible cameras don’t. You can use solar-powered units that have battery backups for increased flexibility in placement. There are also options to continuously record or take scheduled time-lapse photos. Idle cameras can be activated to record through motion detection and infrared sensors. Technology for security cameras are improving and prices are dropping. Therefore, high-resolution images can be obtained at a reasonable price.

    Guide to Construction Site Theft Prevention: Deter Equipment & Tool Theft

    Security cameras have a dual purpose. They help to keep an eye on the site when people aren’t there. They also help monitor employees for productivity and safety, as well as recording project progress. The use of time-lapsed photos can be used to market the company.


    There are several tactics that can be effective and considered “low-tech”.

    First, you need to keep the site well-lit during off hours. This is because thieves strive to be inconspicuous and dark, unprotected sites are the best because it makes it easier to move around and commit crimes undetected. However, it is also worth noting that most theft is committed by employees or others with enough site access to know how to maneuver it in the dark. In many cases, employees are acting on behalf of others. Moreover, if the person thinks they are being watched, they will accost easier targets.

    Installing fencing is another good option for protecting the site. Basically, construction site theft is a crime of opportunity. To counteract that, you can make your site unattractive to thieves. Installing fencing is a good way to do that.

    It is noted that thieves will frequently not hesitate to cause immense damage to steal metal through ripping it out of its source. You might want to hire some good security to counteract that. Hiring security is good because they can check authorization credentials of all people wanting to enter the property.  This means you also need to have only one way in to the site.


    Theft is a big problem on construction sites. However, there are ways to fight it. One of the most effective is simple — security cameras. There are many different options out there, but when you pair these with the suggestions we’ve offered for management and the low-tech options, you will have a stronger security system. We know this is a lot of information to absorb. We also know you probably still have questions. Finally, we know that you can get peace of mind with remote security options with video surveillance and real-time monitoring. Contact us today!


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