Equipment theft is a frustration that continues to plague the Central Okanagan construction industry.
Les Bellamy, president of the Central Okanagan chapter of the Canadian Home Builders Association, says it’s an issue that tends to occur in waves.
“There will be a large rash of thefts and then it will go quiet for a bit and start up again,” Bellamy said.
“It is a pattern that is pretty consistent across the Central Okanagan.”
That frustration was recently vented by TNC Escavating president Troy Chapman in media reports after he had a 2015 John Deere 26G excavator stolen from a job site at Dilworth Drive and Enterprise Way on Sunday, Nov. 18, sometime during the day.
Chapmans said the equipment was worth $40,000, and came on the heels of the theft of 300 litres of fuel worth a value of $400.
That report led to a marketing firm for BigSteelBox issuing a news release about the value of avoiding theft on construction sites with secure storage such as that company’s containers.
Bellamy, president Bellamy Brothers home design company in Kelowna, says one of the driving factors behind construction site theft is the underground economy.
“People wouldn’t be stealing equipment if there wasn’t a market for it to be sold. While the RCMP want to catch the people stealing the equipment, I think it’s also important to understand who is buying that equipment at likely cheaper than normal market prices to use for their own construction work,” he said.
“It’s one thing to see an awesome deal for a piece of equipment, but if the seller can’t produce receipts or any history of the product you need to question where it originated from. Like I learned back in Kindergarten, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“At the end of the day, those costs get passed on to the consumer and is one more thing that has an impact on housing affordability.”
Bellamy knows first-hand of what it’s like to be victimized, from seeing his equipment stolen back when he was a framing contractor to the theft this year of lighting fixtures from one house project, valued at $7,000, to plumbing fixtures in another house under construction, which pushed $20,000 in value.
“I really struggled with the plumbing one because we have insurance, but if you make a claim your rates go up,” he said.
Bellamy said storage containers on site can be helpful for security, but they also experienced the theft of a generator from such a unit. The equipment was rented and cost him $4,000 to replace it.
“I think containers help reduce the risk of someone passing by a construction site and deciding to steal something in the spur of the moment, but it is hard to stop a theft that is thought out in advance with intent,” he said.
He said video surveillance also can help, but it becomes problematic to set up on an evolving construction site that requires it be constantly relocated for clear visual sightlines.