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MAHONING VALLEY Builders report rise in thefts from sites



Published: Fri, September 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Deputies arrested two men Wednesday night on charges of attempted theft from a home construction site.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Mike Wilson isn't surprised about the number of thefts from construction sites this summer.

"That comes along with the territory," said Wilson, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Mahoning Valley.

However, Mahoning County Sheriff's Maj. Michael Budd said the problem of theft from the sites seems significantly worse this summer compared with past summers. Budd said he believes the number of thefts has increased as a result of an increase in new home construction.

In Canfield Township, for example, construction has started on 54 homes this year. That's 11 more than the number of home construction projects that had been started by this time in 2000.

"We are constantly plagued by theft," Budd said. "We've had everything stolen -- from windows that have already been mounted to Jacuzzis that have already been cemented in."

Wilson, meanwhile, said the number of thefts typically increases when the economy slows down. He said more people see theft from construction sites as a way to make easy money.

Arrests: On Wednesday night, deputy sheriffs arrested two men who they say tried to steal a trailer full of tools from a home construction site on Linden Place in Canfield Township. The trailer was stuck against a wall, and as a result, it could not be moved.

The two men were later found in a truck on a street near the home. They were arrested and charged with breaking and entering, attempted grand theft and vandalism.

Deputies also are investigating the theft of six vinyl windows, a trailer carrying construction materials, an airless sprayer, several tools, and an outhouse from construction sites in Canfield Township. The theft of the windows occurred last weekend, and the outhouse and trailer were stolen earlier this summer.

"Equipment and tools they'll always come after," said John Logue, the executive vice president of the Builder's Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. "I think it's easy for these guys to move in, grab something and go."

Where it happens: Logue said the thefts often occur in new developments, where few people live. Both Logue and Budd also said that local residents and law enforcement officials may not realize that a person taking equipment from a site is actually a thief.

"We could drive right by and not even know they're not supposed to be there," Budd said.

Budd added that he thinks some of the thieves are contractors working at other construction sites. He said in the past, deputies have found windows that had been stolen from one site installed in a home built on another site.

Some home builders also could be stealing equipment from their site for the insurance money, he said.

Who pays: Wilson said that an insurance company, a home builder, or a home buyer ends up paying for the thefts. He said that typically, insurance companies pay claims on thefts from home construction sites. However, he said if the home builder does not have risk insurance, "the builders take it on the chin."

The builder also can charge the buyer of the home for equipment that is stolen, Wilson said.

"Ultimately, the homeowner can pay for it," he said.

Wilson said his association advises local builders to place tarps over equipment at night to help deter thieves. Large rocks should be used to weigh down the tarps, he said.

"Make it so it takes them as long as possible [to remove the tarp]." Wilson said.

Rewards: Logue said his association offers rewards for information leading to the capture of equipment thieves. Posters with information about the rewards are given to local developers, he said.

In addition, Logue said his association encourages workers to paint their names on their equipment.

"Hopefully, that'll deter someone or make them think twice," he said.

hill@vindy.com




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