Theft and vandalism on construction sites

Birds eye view looking down on construction site with builders and crane.

Controlling work-site theft and vandalism can make the difference between profit and loss for a project. Having to take time and incurring the costs to replace stolen goods and repair damaged property can negatively affect the timeline of your project. This can lead to you facing potential fines for failing to meet deadlines and experiencing cost overruns.

An industry-wide epidemic

$46 million in equipment is stolen annually in Canada with $15 to $20 million of those losses in Ontario alone. An independent survey of 100 construction companies found they experienced an average of two thefts per year, with losses averaging $25,900 for licensed vehicles and $1,600 for tools. In the U.S., 70% of thefts are from work sites that have inadequate or no security. Unfortunately, only 25% of all stolen equipment is ever recovered. Don’t be a statistic; protect your work site against theft and vandalism.

Minimum-risk, maximum-reward crimes

Thieves and vandals are often opportunistic. Many work sites are located in open areas or in remote locations that often lack proper lighting at night. These locations are easy targets for thieves and vandals. Many times, items that can easily be carried are stolen and later sold. Without a standardized identifying number system, these items can be difficult to trace. Don't give thieves and vandals an opportunity. Take steps to make it difficult for them to target your site.

How to prevent equipment theft and vandalism

You can take steps to protect your work site to make it less appealing to thieves and vandals, including the following:

  • Whenever possible, ensure your site is surrounded by fencing with controlled access at gates
  • Require all visitors to sign in and out of your site
  • Hire security
  • Display clear signage stating your company pursues and prosecutes all criminals
  • Install an alarm system with video surveillance that is monitored and contact authorities if there is a breach at your site. Install powered Internet-connected security cameras with battery backup and store recordings . Place cameras high enough so vandalism or theft is difficult
  • Always ensure there is ample lighting at your work site. Maintain a well-lit area with motion-activated lighting
  • Make sure your employees are aware of and comply with security measures

Here are some precautions to help protect against equipment theft and vandalism

  • Furnish mobile equipment with GPS systems
  • Always lock oil and gas caps
  • Keep a locked storage shed on your premises to store smaller items
  • Ensure all vehicles are locked when not in use and have a key control system. Make it a practice to disconnect batteries at night, remove ignition fuses and use keyless ignition or secure ignition locks. For heavy equipment, use a "one key fits all" that provides access to all vehicles
  • Engrave or paint your own identification codes on all equipment. RFID, radio frequency identification technology, is available to keep track of tools and equipment
  • Keep a record of identification codes and maintain an up-to-date inventory list of everything on your site

Create a security-conscious company culture

Ensure your employees follow all security measures included in their employee manual, in addition to having regular meetings to remind them of the importance of following all stated measures. Also, implement a sign-out procedure for all vehicles and equipment, and post signage reminders in prominent areas.

If possible, parking for employees and visitors should be outside the site gates, and a dedicated and senior staff member should arrive first on site to inspect and immediately report any evidence of criminal activity to the police.

The best

Be proactive. Formulate loss-prevention and risk-management strategies that protect your site from thieves and vandals. Your work site and its contents are valuable assets. It is to your benefit to protect them.

For more information, contact your insurance broker. If you don’t have one, use our Find a Broker tool.


1. Notes provided with this assignment (Ontario Provincial Police)

2. National Insurance Crime Bureau and National Equipment Register. (2016). 2015 Theft Report. Jersey City, NJ:
Verisk Crime Analytics, p. 15. Retrieved from

3. “Thieves targeting local construction sites.” (2017, October 11). The Record (Kitchener, ON). Retrieved from

4. “Over $100,000 in equipment stolen from Upper Sackville construction site.” (2017, November 29). The Chronicle Herald (Halifax). Retrieved from

5. US Database of Stolen Heavy Equipment, the National Equipment Register. (n.d.). Retrieved from

6. Mike Walker. (2014, February 14). “Two local men charged after OPP discover $375,000 worth of stolen heavy equipment,” CTV News. Retrieved from

7. CBC News Report (2005, October 17) industry-millions-1.562971

8. Sonitrol Commercial Security Blog by Joe Wilson (2014, April 4)

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