COVID-19 Makes Construction Sites Vulnerable to Theft

Everyone in the industry has heard similar stories: A construction site has been shut down for weeks. A group of men comes by in the middle of a bright summer day. They’re wearing yellow vests. They turn on their trailer’s hazard lights. Walking onto the site, they start casually carrying equipment out. All of the neighbors assume the construction company has sent its crew to clean up.

But the men aren’t from the construction company. They’re thieves, taking advantage of COVID shutdowns and targeting vulnerable projects. The company doesn’t even realize their equipment has been stolen until days after the theft, when a site manager finally comes by to do a routine spot check and sees everything is gone.

COVID-19 Has Emboldened Criminals

The coronavirus epidemic has forced businesses to make risky decisions. Many companies are forced to choose between leaving valuable assets at job sites and  exposing employees to COVID.

Equipment managers’ dilemmas are thieves’ opportunities. It’s easy for opportunistic criminals to case inactive sites, buy safety vests and hard hats, and make themselves look like they’re supposed to be loading $10,000 machines into the back of their trucks.

These crimes were common before COVID. In 2016, Texas reported more equipment thefts than any other state, with 2,375 total. And it’s not only small assets that are at risk. The second most-common type of stolen equipment are loaders, with tractors a close third. Around $400 million worth of equipment is stolen every year – and only 20% of that is ever recovered.

Rising Theft in Autumn 2020

In the past, most equipment has been stolen during the summer months. Thefts hit a peak in August, then fall in September.

This year, experts predict that equipment theft might actually continue to rise into late fall. Part of the reason that August is usually the worst month for theft is that it’s when companies are working their hardest, trying to finish jobs before the weather turns.

But COVID has changed that. As coronavirus exploded in the summer, many companies paused top-priority projects. In the fall, they’ll have to send employees and equipment out to jobs that need to be finished before winter. With more valuable assets in the field, thieves will have more opportunities to strike – and businesses will lose more profits to theft.

Prevent Theft with Geofences and Asset Trackers

2020’s rise in theft hasn’t been unpredictable. In every recession since 1950, crime has increased. Researchers have shown that high employment rates boost property crime rates. COVID’s economic impact will outlast the epidemic itself, which means that firms will need to continue to guard against theft even after a vaccine is discovered.

Fortunately, two tools will help you stop thieves from running away with your profits – Geofences and Asset Trackers.

Geofences allow you to create digital borders around job sites, parking lots, warehouses, and more. Whenever your assets are taken out of those borders, you and your staff will receive an alert. If thieves are moving equipment off-site, you’ll be informed immediately.

Asset Trackers show you where your equipment is right now. If a thief has taken your skid steer to the other side of town, all you’ll have to do is check your asset tracking map and look up the address. The asset might have been stolen – but it will be back at work ASAP.


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