The construction industry is facing a crime epidemic that is costing more than £400 million per year. What can be done to combat the criminals?
Every business needs to protect itself against the actions of criminals, but the sheer scale of crime within the construction sector makes this an industry where measures need to be taken urgently.
Last year, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) surveyed construction firms up and down the country, and their findings make grim reading. 21 percent of those surveyed said they experience theft on a weekly basis, while that figure rose to a staggering 92 percent being the victims of crime weekly, monthly or yearly.
In this age of rising insurance premiums and potential liability if intruders enter a site and injure themselves, these numbers seem all the more shocking. Clearly, the industry needs to take a closer look at its use of construction site security systems and procedures.
Theft on every scale
Theft is by far the most common form of crime to take place at construction sites, and it is rife at all levels. Career criminals working for organised gangs break into sites at night, removing plant and equipment such as mini diggers that can be worth thousands of pounds. Often, the stolen property has left the country in the back of a van by the time the theft has been discovered.
Not all thefts are on such a large scale, however. Pilferage from within is also endemic within the industry. The survey revealed that 90 percent of construction sites had had tools and building materials pilfered, and of these more than half believed the crime was committed by staff and subcontractors.
Modern video surveillance that is remotely monitored during the hours of darkness is an important tool in staving off the large scale crime, as is the fitting of tracking equipment to plant. Thieves are usually brazen and unsophisticated, typically adopting the “quick in and out” strategy, and taking minimal effort to conceal or disguise faces or vehicle registration numbers. They rely on the element of surprise, so taking this away from them could have a significant impact.
Reducing the smaller, but equally damaging, bleed from internal pilfering demands a different approach. Tracking the whereabouts of tools using technological asset tagging is certainly one solution, and protects both employers and the honest employees and subcontractors who simply want to get the job done. It makes it quick and simple to book tools out and in, and provides the company with real time information that doesn’t only improve security, but also gives a picture of total inventory, making it easy to know when new tools are needed.
It is more efficient and less time consuming than traditional manual paper-based methods, which only serve to increase operating costs and are typically ineffectual.
An escalating problem
Perhaps the most sobering conclusion of all to come out of the survey was that 40 percent of respondents feel that instances of theft are on the increase. The construction industry is facing enough economic difficulties, and these are likely intensify as Brexit takes effect. Now is the time to initiate some basic controls to turn the tide and reduce crime.