Six Tips for Preventing Construction Site Copper Theft

Remote surveillance company offers tips to combat crime industry that threatens U.S. critical infrastructure.

Copper wire theft has become a big issue on construction jobsites. Shown is a screen shot of a copper wire facility that Netwatch secured with its cameras.
Copper wire theft has become a big issue on construction jobsites. Shown is a screen shot of a copper wire facility that Netwatch secured with its cameras.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Associated General Contractors of America estimate that theft and vandalism account for $1 billion a year in losses and other costs to builders. They also estimate that this number will continue to grow, as it has steadily by 10% since 1996.

According to an Unclassified Intelligence Assessment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that was modified in 2010, “Copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure […] targets have increased since 2006 […] and present a risk to both public safety and national security.” The construction industry is not only a main target for theft, but specifically theft of copper and other metals.

“When construction site security is breached, owners’ losses go well beyond the value of the scrap metal and other materials,” notes Kathleen O’Toole, former Boston Police Commissioner and Netwatch board member. “Indirect costs often include downtime, rentals and project overrun penalties, which can be very substantial. By taking some simple steps to prevent theft and vandalism, these costs can be avoided.”

In order to combat this growing crime trend, Netwatch, a full-service remote surveillance company, has compiled its top tips to prevent construction site losses, particularly copper theft:

  • Increase lighting during off hours. Adding increased lighting to external areas is often a deterrent to curious criminals.
  • Let employees know the boss is paying attention. Implementing controls such as timecards and nightly procedures will ensure that employees know their supervisors are paying attention.
  • Schedule supplies as needed. The longer valuable supplies such as copper are exposed and not being used, the greater the temptation for thieves.
  • Practice effective inventory management. Etch identifiers into your equipment, take photos and create a master list of all metal and equipment. The list can be a sign-out sheet for tools, but also be given to your insurance agent if something is stolen.
  • Secure your perimeter.  Fences, preferably with barbed wire, should be installed around construction sites. At the end of every day, ensure that fences are securely locked.
  • Review your current security plan. Your system may not be as effective and efficient as newer systems currently on the market.

“The theft of scrap metal and other construction materials leads to multiple losses for owners — not only the cost of the materials, but also increased insurance premiums,” says David Walsh, Netwatch CEO. “Most construction sites are outdoors, leaving scrap metals vulnerable. By protecting perimeters with video processing software, visual verification and audio warnings, construction sites are less tempting to would-be copper thieves.”