Equipment Theft on the Jobsite Isn’t Going Anywhere

The industry suffers up to $1 billion a year in losses due to theft

Each year, construction theft accounts for between $300 million and $1 billion in losses. Not surprisingly, California, a state that can never build fast enough, is high on the list of most popular states to filch yellow iron. Melissa Somers, as the head of the nonprofit Crime Prevention Program of Southern California, works every day to change that.

“There are more and more opportunities for the bad guys,” says Somers. Tim Karle, an equipment superintendent at Atkinson Construction, knows first-hand how valuable the CPP’s help can be: he had a 710 backhoe stolen off a site and called Somers for help. She in turn reached out to a CPP law enforcement contact who was able to locate the backhoe and return it to Atkinson. “They help you get it back,” Karle says of the organization.

CPP, since its founding in 1984, has helped recover about $50 million worth of equipment. Members in the organization represent a variety of construction industry companies who pay dues and in return get access to CPP’s network of law enforcement contacts, investigators and international liaisons, plus they benefit from some of CPP’s programs to prevent theft in the first place. In 2018, the organization helped recover over $900,000 worth of stolen equipment, for a 54% recovery rate for member-reported thefts. CPP also assisted law enforcement in recovering an additional $172,774 worth of stolen equipment.

Nationwide, the recovery rate hovers around 20%. Theft is a serious problem, from South Carolina to Texas to California. That’s why it’s especially important that contractors work together with law enforcement and agencies like the CPP to keep their equipment safe: there’s nobody else to rely on.

“We’ve got to start working together to say we’re not going to tolerate this anymore,” says Somers. “CPP is the one unifying factor that can really help you out with that.” Somers adds, “Our tagline isn’t just a coincidence. It’s really true: Together, we make a difference.”