Amid construction boom and supply shortages, thefts at Polk County construction sites on the rise

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Construction sites are increasingly becoming targets of thieves amid booming growth and a supply shortage.

But builders are battling back.

Source – Heartland Crime Stoppers

In Haines City, two men were arrested after they were captured on video stealing lumber from a construction site, according to the police department.

“That’s one of the few cases we actually have video for. Because we had video, we were able to make arrests of both men pictured there,” said Mike Ferguson, Haines City Police Department public information officer.

It’s the reason law enforcement officials recommend contractors install security cameras at their sites.

Since the summer, there have been 50 reported constructed site thefts in Haines City, Ferguson said.

“We are growing very fast so you have a lot of construction here. Our detectives have spent a lot of time working these types of cases,” said Ferguson.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is seeing an uptick too.

Records show 107 construction-related thefts so far this year.

In all of 2020, there were 96.

“Lock the doors. Shut the garages. Those are simple things that just make it harder for folks to get into the home or where the supply materials may be,” said Ben Dunn, Polk County Building Division Director.

According to Dunn, there were 5,000 new housing permits in the county in the last fiscal year, an increase from 3,700 the year before.

Dunn points to a combination of more construction, supply shortages and inflated costs as a reason for the thieves trying to take advantage.

Lumber and appliances are the main targets.

Dunn said the issue came up in a recent meeting with members of the Polk County Builders Association which is what led him to release tips to protect construction sites.

One tip – just like locking a house at night, lock construction sites as best as possible.

“On the plywood, secure it down. Lumber, maybe put in the rear of the property, anything that can make it just that much more difficult for people to get those materials,” said Dunn.

Others are investing in ways to provide surveillance at their sites.

“They have hired private security that will drive through their sites and if they do find someone, they will try to detain them and call law enforcement. Some are putting cameras up as well to try to get video footage of people that are taking things and also just a deterrent,” said Dunn.

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