More builds, supply chain issues lead to increase in construction thefts

Published: November 3, 2021 4:21 PM EDT
Updated: November 3, 2021 6:29 PM EDT

As more people move to Southwest Florida, more new homes are going up.

But with that, there is a spike in construction thefts.

Construction thefts have always happened but there is an increase when the sector is busy.

And construction is booming in Cape Coral. This year alone, Cape Coral has issued 4,200 home construction permits.

Issues with the supply chain are causing builds to take long, which means homes are sitting empty longer, making them a perfect target for thieves. Builders said they’re setting up cameras at construction sites and writing down serial numbers to help find anything that might be stolen.

Things are still backed up from last year’s shutdown. For example, windows take four to six months to arrive.

The sound of construction is plentiful in many northwest Cape Coral neighborhoods.

That is a good thing for Matthew Sinclair, owner of Sinclair Custom Homes.

But this year, there are challenges.

“Everyone is extremely, extremely busy right now,” Sinclair said. “Extremely busy, not to mention there’s a large shortage on materials, large shortage on labor.”

A backed-up supply chain, fewer workers and a spike in new builds means homes are taking longer to build and criminals are taking advantage.

“There’s a lot of people stealing stuff and I don’t even know how they have the conscious to do it,” Sinclair said.

In 2021, there have been 177 construction site thefts reported to the Cape Coral Police Department. That’s up from 139 through all of 2020.

“If you close your eye or wink or look away for a minute, it’s gone,” Sinclair said. “You’ve really got to be conscientious on where you’re parking your stuff, how you’re securing it. I’ve had trailers stolen, I’ve had equipment stolen.”

Recently, the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association shared surveillance photos from a construction site where two people in a U-Haul were spotted helping themselves to items inside.

“Building supply costs are through the roof right now so it makes them a desirable object,” said Bill Johnson Jr. with the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association.

The price of plywood is soaring.

“If you’re getting it for free and somebody’s selling it for 10 bucks a sheet less, they’re going to take it,” Sinclair said. “It’s not serial numbered, it’s not marked.”

Not only does stealing construction materials increase the bottom line for builders, but it also puts them at an even longer delay.

“Now they have to reorder the material again and it’s already taken them forever to get it,” Johnson said, adding that, “It’s unfortunate for those that are working hard just to try to give an end product to a homeowner that’s looking to build their house and move to the city.”

Construction companies say the public can help by being a good neighbor and reporting suspicious activity to police.

“Material usually don’t get picked up unless it’s getting picked up by the lumber yard. After hours, 5 o’clock, no one is usually on the job site,” Sinclair said.

“We’re not going to catch them all but if we can get some it’s a start in the right direction,” Johnson added.