The epidemic of instrument theft is on the rise, with businesses in the construction industry vulnerable to opportunistic criminals, says Simon Crowhen, National Sales Manager at Topcon Positioning GB.
A survey of construction professionals, conducted by the Chartered Institute of Building, revealed that 92% had been affected by theft over the course of the year, while more than a fifth (21%) experienced theft on site on a weekly basis. Finding a solution to the problem is difficult as thefts are not often reported, and as a result, the scale of the issue may not even be fully understood.
Why is the construction industry vulnerable?
The construction industry remains a target due to the high prices of equipment and the low rate of lost and stolen instrument recovery, with total stations often targeted due to their high value. Advanced technology, allowing users to operate total stations from a distance, also leaves the devices vulnerable and gives thieves more opportunity to take them. The low rate of instrument recovery allows thieves to escape punishment and acts as a deterrent for people when it comes to reporting incidents.
Sites also usually do not take measures to deter thieves, with many companies choosing not to pay for expensive extra security such as CCTV, bright lighting or even security guards. Preventative efforts, like padlocks on tripods, are also often not substantial enough to stop thieves.
What can be done?
In an ideal world, construction professionals would know where all their tools are and would be able to monitor them remotely, providing extra peace of mind that, should equipment be stolen, it could easily be tracked. Certain tracking technology already exists to monitor total stations, whereby construction professionals can manage their equipment online, tracking which project the total station is on and how many hours it has been used.
Geofences are now a possibility with today’s technology, allowing users to draw a map of construction sites and ensure that if equipment is removed from that area, the equipment is locked so that it becomes unusable. Time fences are also a reality, meaning total stations outside of the hours that construction professionals want to use them are shut down, making them ineffective for thieves.
Working together as an industry
The Survey Association, the trade body for commercial survey companies in the UK, and crime prevention company, Smart Water, have formed an alliance to analyse and follow up on incidents of instrument theft. Recent figures collected by the partnership show that the average cost of equipment stolen in 2019 was £18,000. With instrument theft a growing issue, the construction industry needs to make sure they are taking the appropriate measures to protect their equipment in order to defend themselves against massive losses.
Rachel Tyrrell, Secretary-General at The Survey Association, explained: “You don’t have to be a TSA member to report equipment theft through our portal. The flow of comprehensive, quality data helps to highlight the UK’s crime hot spots to the national intelligence unit of the police, ultimately leading to arrests, the recovery of stolen instruments and disruption of organised criminal activity.”
With new breakthroughs in instrument security helping to reduce crime rates on site, technological innovation is also key to tackling the problem. Construction professionals need to plan ahead when it comes to on-site security to ensure that equipment is not left vulnerable and easily accessible for criminals, and technology is available to help. The construction industry needs to work together to innovate and find new solutions to ensure that projects are not disrupted and money lost as a result of opportunistic thieves.
To report a piece of equipment stolen to the TSA, follow the link: www.tsa-uk.org.uk/equipment-theft.