Construction site burglaries total more than $1,600 in losses

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Five homes under construction in northeast Clovis were burglarized Sept. 10. Police say workers can curb thefts by removing tools and supplies from work sites or by adequately securing them.

Sharna Johnson

High-dollar tools and building supplies can be appealing to thieves, making construction sites targets of opportunity.

Tools, materials and appliances were stolen Sept. 10 when five unfinished homes in the Almond Ranch Estates subdivision in northeast Clovis were burglarized.

According to police reports, items ranging from knee pads to paint were taken, totaling more than $1,600 in losses from the work sites.

The contractor for the subdivision couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Police Capt. Patrick Whitney said while not common, theft and damage does occur occasionally at the sites of new home construction.

Whitney said contractors sometimes place high-dollar items — such as stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves — in unfinished homes, “long before the property is ready to be occupied and properly secured.”

He said contractors also often leave valuable tools and construction materials on site between work shifts.

“Our officers patrol those areas when they can,” Whitney said via e-mail, “but there is no substitute for contractors keeping their tools and construction products secured at another location other than the work site or providing their own 24-hour security if they choose to leave such items on work sites.”

Deborah Autrey, the owner of Stephens Construction & Ready Mix Inc., echoed Whitney’s sentiments.

“We don’t leave a lot of stuff at the work site,” Autrey said, but she noted that her company primarily does excavation work involving heavy equipment and doesn’t carry a lot of tools on site.

Clovis’ Building Safety Director Pete Wilt said worksite vandalism and theft is not as bad as it once was.

A couple of years ago when copper values were high, Wilt said it was common for thieves to enter unfinished homes and strip out wiring or other metal for resale.

The recent thefts occurred on Carmel Street and Cobblestone Drive, which are near each other.

Carmel Street, near the Clovis Civic Center, is where a series of homes were damaged by bulldozers. The damage, caused over a weekend, was discovered Sept. 19, 2009.

Police have said they do not believe there is any connection between the incidents.

No arrests have been made in either case.