Why Criminals Target Lumber Yards — and How Lumber Yard Security Can Help

The housing market and the cost of lumber are making the commodity extremely valuable, necessitating lumber yard surveillance and security

Key takeaways:

  • Lumber prices have reached over $1,500 per thousand board feet in the last year, and recent prices remain over $540.
  • Thieves are targeting lumber yards because of high prices, and various examples of these crimes illustrate the methods and costs of this materials theft.
  • A lumber yard security system, including components like adequate lighting, trackers, and professionally monitored surveillance, can help keep properties safe.

Lumber yard and construction company owners are noticing a disturbing trend, as their sites are becoming a bigger attraction for thieves. Sky-high lumber prices are one reason criminals steal more often from these locations, as there’s a thriving black market for the illegal lumber trade. 

This rise in crime is spurring many property and business owners to take additional precautions to secure their sites. Lumber yard security is now necessary because, without it, they are far more likely to be victimized by external or internal perpetrators. 

Here’s a look at why the lumber industry is experiencing so much theft, along with information on how lumber yard surveillance can help you protect your business.

Lumber is expensive

As an item becomes more valuable, people will naturally try to get their hands on it. And lumber costs have skyrocketed recently. Before the pandemic, lumber cost between $300 and $460 per thousand board feet before shooting to over $1,600 in mid-2021. Prices reached similar levels in early 2022 before falling to more reasonable amounts in the middle of the year. 

In June 2022, the cost of lumber sits at about $560 per thousand board feet, possibly because rising interest rates have lowered demand for building new homes. However, prices also fell in the latter half of 2021, only to increase again in the spring.

The lumber market is incredibly volatile right now, and its costs are still far higher than historical levels. This uncertainty could create an environment where lumber theft remains elevated, especially as many thieves continue to get away with their crimes against the industry.

Internal and external theft is common

One challenging aspect of preventing lumber yard theft is that it can come from anywhere. Both internal and external theft are issues, even for businesses with many trusted long-term employees. 

For example, in May of 2021, a South Carolina business reported a lumber theft following a routine inventory check. A branch manager had noticed some wood was missing and spoke with the local sheriff’s office about it. While reviewing surveillance footage from the site, management noticed a production manager loading a significant amount of lumber onto a truck on two separate occasions. No paperwork documenting the sale of this wood existed, raising some red flags during the investigation.

After investigators looked further into the matter, surveillance footage illustrated that the production manager had been doing this for years and involved another employee in the scheme. Both employees had worked for the company for over eight years and were highly trusted team members — but that didn’t stop them from stealing from the company.

In May 2022, thieves broke into a lumber yard in the heart of downtown Fresno, California, escaping with thousands of dollars’ worth of wood in a matter of minutes. These criminals cut the lock off a back gate in seconds and were in and out of the property eight minutes later with a full load of lumber. 

In another example of external threats, North Texas experienced significant lumber yard theft in 2021 and 2022, as a criminal ring was responsible for over $50,000 in losses. Police eventually apprehended some suspects thanks to surveillance cameras installed at one of the locations.

Proactively protecting these businesses is essential, especially as everyday materials become more expensive and criminals are incentivized to target them.

How to protect your property: the essentials and options

It seems unlikely that theft from lumber yards will abate, especially since the commodity is on criminals’ radar and is still quite expensive. Therefore, lumber yards and construction companies should take as many precautions as possible to keep their materials safe. 

First, if you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to invest in high-quality fencing around the property. It would also pay to spend a little extra on locks for the gate because, as seen in Fresno, many thieves have the equipment necessary to cut many of them. 

Lumber yards with large pallets of wood sitting around could invest in tracking devices. Tracking these pallets gives owners and managers an idea of where the lumber is at all times, providing an early warning if large quantities go missing. Lighting is vital in these settings, too, as thieves are less likely to break into locations where they’ll be highly visible. Many lighting options are on the market, so look for one that meets your budget and requirements. 

You’ll also want to remember that thieves are more likely to come out as prices increase. So, if lumber passes the $1,000 per thousand board foot level again, you can be sure that theft will increase.

Getting a lumber yard surveillance system

The criminals North Texas police apprehended were caught because at least one of the businesses they targeted had a video surveillance system in place. This system allowed investigators to put eyes on the suspects and eventually track them down so they couldn’t steal from other locations. The internal theft in South Carolina was also outed by video surveillance.

A high-end lumber yard surveillance system can even take this security a step further if you choose a professionally monitored option. Trained security personnel will watch your video feed and immediately report any irregularities — to you and the authorities as necessary. They can also warn off intruders or individuals attempting theft via onsite loudspeakers and alarms. Sensors and software algorithms are also available in these systems, making it far easier to identify legitimate threats. 

A lumber yard security system will also store video feeds in the cloud. So, you and authorities can review this historical footage if repeat criminals or employees are suspected of stealing.

Mobile Video Guard provides surveillance solutions for lumber yards and other businesses at risk of theft, vandalism, intrusion, and other crimes. We also offer live monitoring by qualified security professionals, adding an additional layer of protection. Contact Mobile Video Guard today to learn more or get a quote.

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