The construction sector is now experiencing a boom period following the suppression of building work during the pandemic. But, alongside the pipeline of busy works schedules, there is also a surge in site thefts, further exacerbated by the shortage of materials. The consequence is delayed projects and spiraling costs as some components' prices soar.
The price of copper has soared by 70 per cent in just a year, whilst lithium carbonate, used to accelerate silica-based cements and mortars, has all but doubled, rising by 97 per cent.
"The construction sector has always been a target for thefts of valuable plant and equipment," said Paul Corten, sales director for leading temporary security provider, The VPS Group.
"But we are increasingly seeing opportunistic thieves give way to organised criminal gangs, as the price of plant and materials means greater rewards for the risks they take. Surprisingly, the majority of construction sites do not rely on monitored tech solutions, even though these systems provide the most efficient form of security and prevention."
In January this year, a pan-European crime gang were convicted in a Belgian court over a €1 million series of thefts of cranes, excavators and trailers. The haul, including a €460,000 cement pumping truck, a €108,000 bulk tanker and €50,000 worth of trailers, were stolen, resprayed and sold to unsuspecting customers across the UK and Ireland.
A month before that, a gang of metal thieves had been jailed for stealing 92km of cable over several raids in the UK.
The Construction Equipment Association (CEA), owners of the CESAR scheme (the plant marking and registration initiative), noted a worrying increase in construction machinery theft in the UK since the introduction of lockdowns caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. One company, the Clancy Group, reported an increase in theft of construction machines from their sites by as much as 50 per cent.
Mr Corten added: "Deploying traditional manned security guards can ensure there is a visual deterrent on-site with a quick response to incidents, but there can be substantial costs, especially for 24/7 manned guarding. Plus they are only able to be in one place at one time, which is a problem for larger sites. And they are, after all, human: they may not stay alert for night shifts, or they miss critical areas of the site."
Increasingly, site security managers are turning to monitored technology to provide more sophisticated solutions that enhance, improve or replace guards, without compromising the security of the site, and often for far less cost.
Several technologies have been specifically geared to protect construction sites from intruders, and can differentiate between genuine breaches and false alarms, as well as secure and detect utility faults.
"The latest CCTV Smart Towers comprise technologies with three key elements. They operate without an external power supply, so there is no extra cabling getting in the way of the workforce. They are highly flexible and can be rapidly moved, adapting to the site project development. And they can be fully loaded, with the latest high-definition camera technology that can see in daylight or at night, with additional sensors all linked wirelessly, throwing a wide ‘security net’ over an entire location,” said Mr Corten.
CCTV security systems can be monitored locally or remotely 24 hours a day, with ever-more sophisticated software analytics that have helped significantly reduce the chance of false alarms. Accredited companies have SSAIB certification to provide clients with that additional safety of knowing their security provider is operating safely and securely.