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Theft on Construction Sites

The construction industry added more than $900 billion to the US economy in the first quarter of 2020, a trend that surpassed that of the 2008 recession. According to Contractor Magazine, the industry is expected to grow over 15% in 2021, recovering from some of the downturn witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic. With much invested in construction, job sites are particularly prone to devastating losses. Theft on construction sites is common as there’s access to expensive equipment, machinery, tools, and more. Preventing losses is becoming essential for contractors and construction companies to remain profitable and protected from possible damages and setbacks.

Various construction site options provide protection against threats of theft on construction sites. Learn more about a few options below.

Large construction site with digging equipment and supplies

Construction Site Theft Trends

According to the National Equipment Register (NER) and National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), losses from construction and farm equipment theft are estimated to be between $300 million and $1 billion annually, with most estimates in the range of $400 million. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive database that provides statistics for construction theft alone, but contractors who have experienced it firsthand know the painful reality and potentially high cost.

Construction sites are in many cases left unattended while no construction activities are ongoing. Oftentimes, only a fence is installed to protect the site, making it attractive to potential thieves. In some cases, the theft might be as minor as opportunistic thieves stealing some bricks, lumber, hammers, or ladders for their home repair projects, which may not be worthy of reporting to authorities or insurance companies.

Existing studies have estimated that thefts result in up to one billion dollars per year in losses to the U.S. construction industry. Further, because of the low risk of being caught and potentially high rewards, theft seems to be increasing.

Contractors also experience indirect impacts. This includes costly job delays, downtime for operators, higher insurance premiums, possible cancellation of an insurance policy, jeopardized bonding and borrowing power, and liquidated damage. As a result, a major theft incident can easily result in loss on a project.

Importance of Security on Construction Sites

Theft on construction sites highlights a common need for security that provides adequate protection from significant damages and losses. Finding the right security solution for a construction site can save money while also providing round-the-clock support that deters criminals. For many contractors, this can reduce risk and costly insurance premiums.

The role of construction site security is extremely important because dependable security systems provide support at any time while also maintaining jobsite progress to offset any potential fallbacks or setbacks due to theft.

Many people also underestimate the protection of their workers and even members of the public that an efficient security service can also offer. Theft on construction sites, unfortunately, is more common than many assume. Simple barricades like chain link fences, and even security guards might not be sufficient enough to protect valuable assets and equipment.

Hand using pliers to attempt to cut a lock and chain

Unique Security Threats for Construction Sites

Commercial theft is not an uncommon occurrence. Nearly 30% of all business failures are caused by employee theft. In fact, corporate security experts estimate that 25% to 40% of all employees steal from their employers. Based on information gathered from the ACFE's 2014 Global Fraud Study, the median loss caused by a single case of occupational fraud is $145,000.

However, construction sites are particularly vulnerable to theft for a number of reasons. First, most construction sites are not always closely monitored. Often, there are significant downtimes when equipment and other valuable assets are left unattended, both during the day and night. Also, due to the vastness of most large construction sites, it’s difficult if not impossible to maintain visuals across a property to ensure theft prevention.

Common reasons theft on construction sites occur:

  • Ease of access to equipment and valuable materials

  • Lack of security or access control

  • Remote locations of construction sites

  • Bandwidth for 24-hour surveillance

In order to prevent opportunistic criminals from stealing vital tools, equipment, or other valuables on a construction site, it’s possible to implement a range of security systems that provide deterrents for criminal activity and theft on construction sites.

Types of Security for Construction Sites

Protecting against potential losses due to theft on construction sites is vital. What types of security systems are available for construction job sites?

Video Surveillance

Video systems are likely among the most popular construction site security options available. Video surveillance serve a two-fold purpose. First, it can prevent theft on construction sites from occurring. When spotting advanced system cameras, thieves may feel less inclined to approach construction property. Also, in the event a crime does take place, video footage has proved to be paramount in identifying suspects and providing proof in an insurance claim.

Today’s camera systems are not what they were decades ago, or even five years ago. As technology has continued to advance, newer software provides unmatched surveillance to help combat theft on construction sites. In fact, video equipment can offer real-time visibility without the need to be physically present onsite, making it ideal for remote job locations.

Access Control

Access control is an important component for any construction site as it limits employee access to specialized or high-valued equipment and tools. What is access control in security systems and is it helpful? Access control provides authentication and authorization only to approved employees. Since most theft occurs at the hands of existing or previous employees, it’s important to limit accessibility where valuable equipment is stored.

System Monitoring

In the case of video surveillance and intrusion detection, alarms almost always play a key role. Typically, alarms trigger upon forced entry. Intrusion detection systems also take care of alerting the proper authority if or when theft on construction sites occurs. System monitoring takes this process further. It ensures that, even in remote areas, an alarm will reach someone at all times. This is ideal for construction zones where proper infrastructure limits technological capabilities.

Systems monitoring can be connected through phone lines, the internet, or even a network that is managed from a central hub or software. For remote areas, this means that local authorities are still reached and a businesses’ security needs are met quickly and efficiently. A high-quality security system should offer remote monitoring that safeguards property for 24/7 and off-hour support, further reducing security costs.


Companies that have operations in secluded areas frequently need a way to monitor and automate their equipment and assets without being physically present. New surveillance systems make this possible. The reality is that in any large organization operation, equipment errors, process failures, and maintenance issues are abundant, leading to expensive repairs and dangerous conditions.

Regardless of the electrical infrastructure, companies like Twenty20 Solutions can provide systems, technologies, and services that automate operations for harsh, isolated, and off-grid locations. This can help reduce the likelihood of equipment failures that expose the organization to crime.

Artificial Intelligence

Reviewing security using artificial intelligence (AI) seems far-fetched for construction sites that operate on more basic needs. However, in terms of the latest and greatest technologies in security, AI usually wins every time. Artificial intelligence is the answer to reducing the risk of theft, while increasing efficiency.

AI Technology solutions analyze more video data and can call attention to security breaches and threats without the need to sift through hours or days of video feeds. Through machine learning algorithms that can be trained and customized to a unique environment, these security systems are able to detect actions or incidents that do not follow a usual pattern. AI can enhance efficiency that reduces business loss and improve efficiency as it reduces false alarms.

Filtering out irrelevant information is critical for the future of technology in the business world.

Partially built structure with brick wall and wood frame

Twenty20 Solutions: Solving Theft on Construction Sites

Our robust security systems incorporate extensive features, technology, and equipment that can streamline protection for a number of industries. We are a global provider in automation and security technology, smart surveillance, and access control solutions.

Our all-in-one approach allows organization managers and operators to find peace of mind, even in remote locations when theft and crime go largely undetected. Our industry sectors often face the unique disadvantage of not having an existing infrastructure to support remote-access monitoring. We can also provide coverage in these areas as well.

Learn more about our solutions for construction site security by requesting a demo here.


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