Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to burglaries at single-family house construction sites, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors that should be considered before a particular response is implemented. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances and that you can justify each response based upon reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses; law enforcement alone is seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Changing Building Practices
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations

1

Limiting the number of construction sites supervised Increases the amount of meaningful guardianship over individual construction sites . . . there is an adequate number of employees Supervisors may be able to handle a higher number of sites in subdivisions where houses are centrally located, as opposed to sites that are spread out across a large geographical area

2

Coordinating delivery and installation Decreases the time between delivery and installation to reduce opportunity for theft; eliminates the opportunity for theft when installation is delayed until . . . the time between delivery and installation is as short as possible; immediate installation after delivery or installation after occupancy is preferable Check state and local requirements relating to the installation of appliances; it is sometimes the case that the financer requires appliances to be installed before the closing of construction

3

Screening and training workers/ subcontractors Promotes trustworthy employees and helps them recognize and report criminal behavior . . . there is low employee turnover and a minimal number of subcontractors Where permitted by law, employers should conduct criminal and financial background checks of both potential employees and subcontractors

4

Limiting the hiring of subcontractors Promotes trustworthy employees who know a builder’s policies and procedures . . . there are an adequate number of workers and subcontractors in the local market In some locales, this may not be possible because of a small workforce or a high volume of construction

5

Having a check out system for tools Records data on individuals responsible for tools; instills both a sense of accountability and the perception that management is watching inventory . . . one person at a site or subdivision is responsible for the system Consistent use of the system

6

Hiring of loss prevention personnel Devotes individual attention to preventing and solving burglaries; the specialist can also be a liaison between police and other stakeholders . . . the company can afford a full-time loss prevention specialist May be difficult to convince builders who believe that losses due to burglary are merely a cost of doing business
7 Employing onsite private security patrols Produces a visible, pro-active deterrent, which may discourage offenders from committing burglaries . . . sites are clustered together or are located in a subdivision Communication, guidelines, and reporting procedures are essential to maximizing the benefits of security patrols. Patrols should be periodically evaluated to ensure they are being used properly. For the cost-conscious, it may be possible to create a perception of security through signage that says “Protected by Acme Security Company” or “Beware of Guard Dogs”; fake security cameras can also be an effective deterrent
8 Establishing an employee hotline to report crime Increases an offender’s perception of being apprehended by providing an anonymous way for coworkers to report criminal behavior . . . the builder encourages use of the hotline and provides cash rewards or other incentives A successful reporting program provides the mechanisms, incentives, and environment to encourage employees to report theft or other inappropriate behavior by their coworkers
9 Adopting and enforcing antitheft policies Enforces a zero tolerance position on crime and lets potential offenders know criminal behavior is not acceptable . . . the message is consistently and regularly presented to employees and the policies are strictly enforced May be difficult for builders to enforce when there is a high volume of construction and a shortage of workers
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Target Hardening
10 Improving lighting at construction sites Indicates security measures are in place at the construction site; increases observation of the site by passersby; allows people to observe incidents without taking personal risks . . . there is appropriate lighting for the environment Electricity may not be available
11 Installing and monitoring closed-circuit television Deters potential offenders; provides evidence of offending for apprehension and prosecution . . . cameras are portable, well-positioned and not easily disabled; there is adequate lighting at night Expensive, but can be motion sensitive; most useful in high risk areas
12 Installing alarm systems Deters potential offenders; quickly alerts builders and police . . . if triggered alarms are promptly investigated High percentage of false alarms; signs indicating the use of an alarm should be displayed to reinforce the deterrent effect
13 Using portable storage units Stores materials that will be kept at the construction site overnight . . . the construction sites are in a subdivision Can be equipped with an alarm and a lock that is resistant to bolt cutters
14 Installing fencing Provides a visible deterrent by clearly identifying site boundaries; controls access to the site . . . used in larger construction sites or subdivisions Limiting access may frustrate employees
15 Marking property Deters potential offenders from taking property that they believe builders are monitoring; allows police to return recovered property . . . desirable property can be marked Requires builder participation and investigative follow up; publicity increases the benefits
16 Installing global positioning satellite (GPS) locator chips Enables builders to track and recover larger appliances and equipment . . . the builder has reason to believe that property will be taken (for example, from a confidential informant) System must be monitored and can be expensive
17 Displaying crime prevention signage Can convince potential burglars that builders and police are monitoring sites and enacting crime prevention measures . . . signage is professionally designed and produced as well as prominently and strategically displayed Signage alone may be a cost-effective deterrent to novice offenders; however, its deterrent effect can deteriorate over time
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Police Responses
18 Enhancing natural surveillance Requests assistance of neighborhood residents and other groups likely to be in a particular area . . . a construction site burglary problem has been identified in a particular area “Reverse 911,” including those with autodialers, can be used to communicate with a targeted population
19 Making use of publicity Influences a potential offender’s perception of risk; provides information about defining and reporting suspicious behavior . . . campaigns are carefully timed Any attempt to use publicity to prevent or deter crime must be credible
20 Disrupting markets for stolen goods Reduces rewards for offenders by preventing them from profiting from their crimes . . . the goods are being sold in second-hand markets Can be difficult to obtain information about how and where offenders sell or exchange stolen goods; stings are expensive and time-consuming
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
21 Police patrolling of construction sites Increases guardianship . . . patrols are focused on sites and subdivisions at the most vulnerable stages of construction Difficult for officers to apprehend offenders
22 General surveillance and bait operations Property is placed to tempt offenders; police stake out the crime scene or place GPS locators on the property . . . used tactically with established patterns or confidential informants The equipment is expensive
23 Conducting fencing sting operations Police set up bogus operations to buy stolen property . . . police have specific information about a large theft operation Research suggests that these operations may generate more crime than they prevent
24 Increasing penalties for burglars Raises the penalties for burglary; specifically deters criminals . . . offenders are apprehended Increased penalties deter offenders only if combined with greater perceived risks or fewer anticipated rewards