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Often housing lots of expensive materials and equipment, construction sites are no doubt an attractive target for criminals looking to make a quick buck.

This is probably why, anecdotally at least, it’s generally thought that the construction industry experiences more than its fair share of crime – especially when it comes to theft.

However, we wanted to go beyond anecdotes and find out what the real impact of crime is on the construction industry.

Unfortunately, up-to-date, comprehensive crime stats for the construction industry are fairly hard to come by. That said, by gathering information from a variety of sources, it’s possible to paint a broad picture of how crime is impacting the construction industry.

So, that’s exactly what we did.

To help you understand how crime affects those operating in the construction industry, we thought we’d share our findings – as well as give you some tips for how to boost construction security.

Construction Industry Crime Stats

A few years ago, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) conducted a huge survey to assess the impact of crime in the construction industry – indeed, this may be the largest survey of its type ever to have been conducted in the UK.

Some of its findings were very surprising. For example, it found that the construction industry suffers losses averaging £400m a year to vandalism and theft. However, as the report states, this figure is likely to be significantly lower than the true number since many of these crimes go unreported.

In fact, according to a more recent publication from AMI Group released in 2020, things have actually gotten worse. According to them, it is estimated that the UK construction is losing £800m a year to theft – and that, in the UK, only 9 percent of stolen machines are recovered.

Whether the amount of money lost from the construction industry to crime really has doubled in this short amount of time is anyone’s guess – since accurate annual figures are not recorded. Even if this estimate is way off, it’s probably safe to say that the actual figure has increased somewhat.

Perhaps even more surprising than all of this is that fact that 92 percent of those surveyed by the CIOB claimed that their construction site is affected by theft weekly, monthly or yearly – and a whopping 21 percent claim to experience theft every week.

Though many thieves target smaller pieces goods (such as power tools and building materials), a report by Allianz released a couple of years ago indicated that large plant theft was on the rise, too.

Indeed, the report forecast that, by the end of 2018, the number of plant theft claims would rise to around 730 – up from 428 in 2013. This includes very large items of plant, such as excavators and JCBs, whose value can be incredibly high.

The report also highlighted another problem affecting the construction industry – fraud.

Rather than simply stealing plant or vandalising a construction site, some criminals choose instead to take data which they can use to defraud a company.

For example, the Allianz report highlights the case of a group of criminals who cloned the details of a property developer. They then used a loaded credit card to purchase plant insurance, arranged the hire of multiple items of plan and erected signs at the delivery location to give the impression the company traded from there. By the time the crime was discovered, the criminals had absconded with almost 130k worth of plant. It is the thought that the group did the same thing to at least five other construction companies as well.

A recent piece in Construction News also highlights the risk of identity theft and fraud – particularly in relation to cybercrime. According to them, the continued drive toward BIM, automation and collaboration brings with it an exponential increase in construction companies’ “digital attack surfaces” – or the number of places companies are vulnerable to potential cyberattacks including data theft.

The article points out that the construction industry was identified in the Department for Culture, Media and Sports’ Cyber Security Breaches Survey that construction ranked as one of industries in which senior managers are least likely to take cyber security seriously – further exacerbating their risk. This is even more worrying given that the construction industry ranks in the bottom three of 12 industries in terms of cyber security investment.

Though, with limited statistics, it’s hard to get a clear view of the impact crime is having on the construction industry, the sources we found all seem to back up the anecdotal evidence – that the threats facing the construction industry are significant.

Today, then, it’s critical that site managers implement comprehensive construction security. The presence of even simple security practices can be enough to deter many criminals. Here are some easy things you can do to protect your site.

How To Increase Construction Security

Maintain An Up-To-Date Inventory

If you lack an up-to-date inventory, it’s possible that criminals may be stealing from you without you even noticing it. Small items that go missing – such as tools, hardware and even data – may not be noticed right away.

The faster you respond to a crime, the more likely you are to get your belongings back. And the best way to keep track of what’s on site at any given time is to keep an up-to-date inventory and regularly cross reference its contents with what’s actually on site.

Create A “Clear Zone”

One of the simplest ways to deter thieves this is to create a “clear zone” around the perimeter of your site.

A clear zone is an area in which no tools, equipment or other assets are kept – especially overnight. Ideally, your clear zone will be between five to 10 metres. If your site is too small to support a clear zone of this size, make sure to make it as big as possible without impacting work.

Mark Equipment

By marking your equipment, thieves will be much less likely to be able to sell anything they steal from you – which can be enough to put them off taking it in the first place.

To brand metal equipment, engraving is often the most permanent and cost-effective solution. Engraving machines are relatively cheap and easy to use. Make sure you engrave each item in multiple places – and engrave any removable parts.

Another method is to paint your equipment a distinctive colour. This will lower its value without impacting functionality.

Minimise Access Points

Your site should be completely surrounded by robust perimeter fencing. Access should only be possible though designated access points. Access points are inherently vulnerable – which means the more of them you have the less secure your site is.

To make unlawful entry as difficult as possible, minimise the number of access points your site has – ideally, just have one. Position manned security guards, CCTV cameras and security lighting at this point.

Hire Professionals

While adhering to the security tips above will improve your site security, the very best construction security can only be achieved when you hire a professional construction security company.

Professional security companies have access to a wide range of technologies as well as the necessary expertise and experience to create and implement an effective construction security plan.

Construction security services include:

  1. Manned guarding
  2. Mobile patrols
  3. CCTV installation and monitoring
  4. Alarm system installation and monitoring
  5. Security lighting
  6. Perimeter fencing and professional signage
  7. Security consultancy and provisioning
  8. Dog handling
  9. Emergency service liaison
  10. Rapid 24/7 alarm response
  11. First aid trained security officers

Looking For Professional Construction Security?

Churchill Security is a national security provider. We are able to deliver expert construction security solutions no matter where your site is located.

Since our foundation in 1993, we have established ourselves as one of the UK’s leading security companies. All our security officers are SIA-licensed, and we belong to the top five percent percent of all UK security companies – making us a top-tier member of the ACS Pacesetters.

We also have ConstructionLine membership – which ensures our services are fit for private and public sector construction security work – and are SafeContractor approved.

We have a 95 percent customer retention rate, maintain an average of 350 active sites and have an average alarm response time of 30 minutes.

Churchill Security can provide comprehensive construction security solutions to companies all over the UK. We can help your business achieve the very best levels of protection.

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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.