BOZEMAN, Mont. - Montana's warmer weather means seasonal construction work is beginning to pick up, but with construction also comes a spike in thefts at project sites.
Gallatin County Undersheriff Dan Springer helped us dig through the numbers. He says during the last construction season, between June and September 2013, they got around 95 theft reports. More than half of those were construction material thefts of tools or materials, like copper wire. Springer says the thieves can be tough to track, and workers need to take steps protect themselves.
"If you've got good documentation as to what your items are, and you have videos of them, or photographs of them, anything that can help us is beneficial. On the same side if you lock it up, most of the time thieves are looking for the easiest stuff to steal, so if something is sitting out in the open, that's easier to take then something locked in a trailer," said Springer.
Tuesday afternoon we found Kile Johnson at a project site, helping finish a home in Loyal Gardens West of Bozeman. He tells us there is only one word to describe the feeling of power tools being taken from a job site, and that is violated. Johnson says when he is on a job it can be a risky time to leave tools lying around.
Usually during my phase of construction I have no doors or locks, I can't lock anything up, all I can do is hide stuff around the house," said Johnson. In 2006, Johnson learned hiding the tools wasn't enough. He tells us $3,000 worth of equipment went missing, never to be seen again.
"Within our first week, all our tools disappeared off the job, from that point on any expensive tools we took off the job," said Johnson.
Someone else who knows about construction site thieves is Lon Anderson of LA Construction.
"Some of the stuff I have had stolen has been in Missoula, on one job I had my truck broken into a couple of times," said Anderson.
Anderson has been in the business of building homes for more than 25 years, and tells us at any one time there can be $20,000 worth of equipment on a job site.
"When you have a drill set, lets say Makita, these sets cost like 500 bucks," said Anderson.
He also tells us when the tools go missing, they are virtually impossible to replace.
"None of my stuff that's ever been stolen has ever been returned," said Anderson.
Anderson takes the extra step of insuring his tools, but he says it costs more than money to replace them. Without tools he can't work.
"You still have to take time to go re-buy all your tools," said Anderson.
Springer says occasionally the tools can end up in pawn shops, and if they have the right data like a serial number or some kind of marking they can catch the crooks. However, if thieves are using the tools only for personal use, it can become almost impossible to replace any of those items.
- Copyright ©2016 by KECI, KCFW, KTVM. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
- KECI UM kicks off homecoming events
- Hundreds of raptors migrating through Big Belt Mountains
- KECI Montana untested rape kit info to go to CODIS
- FBI mum on case of Montana woman found dead in car trunk