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GUEST ARTICLE: ‘We’re in a theft epidemic’

  • 16 Feb 2024

A damning new report shows theft from construction sites is surging nationwide, detrimentally affecting projects, firms and employees. This guest article outlines more…

Key findings

 – Spike in cases: Two-thirds of respondents say the rate of theft increased in 2023, as the resale value of goods reaches record levels.

 – Criminals are getting smarter: 1 in 3 believe crime, including theft, physical violence, harassment and vandalism, is becoming more sophisticated. It comes as reports of criminals using drones to target sites become more frequent.

 – A hidden productivity drain: A third of projects have been delayed due to crime, with copper and cable topping the tables as the most frequently targeted goods – delaying the development of critical infrastructure, such as railways.

 – Workers bear the brunt of poor security: 1 in 4 workers have been left out of pocket, after having to replace stolen tools, and say being robbed is their ‘biggest fear’. However, security is seen as a ‘low priority’ on sites they work on (30%).

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The ‘Unseen Threats: 2024 Construction Crime Index’, from leading site-security provider, BauWatch, examines insights from construction workers, to understand their experience of theft at work.

‘Perfect storm’

It suggests a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, including goods inflation, increasingly sophisticated criminal tactics, and a general underestimation of the risks, are making sites vulnerable to crime, in turn causing major delays to projects, as well as denting staff morale.

It also identifies the types of perpetrators that might pose a threat, including opportunists, professional gangs, and ‘insiders’ (criminals posing as legitimate personnel), and outlines a list of best practice measures that can be immediately employed to minimise the risk of a robbery.

Rico Wojtulewicz, Head of Policy and Market Insight at the National Federation of Builders, says: “We’ve observed that, since the Government removed the construction industry’s access to red diesel, fuel theft has risen, as indicated by responses in BauWatch’s crime index. CCTV has therefore become an even more important tool to help tackle site crime, not only because it acts as a deterrent and helps collect video evidence but as it also offers an insight into how and where a site might be better protected.”

Extra preventative action

With criminals seemingly becoming more brazen, BauWatch, which supplies CCTV security to over 5000 active Construction sites across UK and Europe, and the National Federation of Builders, are calling for firms to take extra preventative action against thieves, rather than taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. 

Alexis Potter, BauWatch’s Managing Director, comments: “Construction sites have always attracted thieves, but with the resale value of goods going through the roof, they’re now prime targets. So, it’s worrying to see that some workers don’t feel confident about on-site security.

“Repeated incidents, even small ones, have huge repercussions if left unchecked as we can see in this report. The best way to minimise the impact of theft is to deter criminals from entering at all, so we are advocating for the adoption of preventative security measures to protect staff, safeguard investments and maintain project schedules.”

The 2024 Construction Crime Index report is downloadable here.

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