Not only are wood prices exploding.
Wood thefts from residential and commercial building sites are also increasing – as is the theft of copper, shingles, electrical appliances and other building materials.
Now local members of the construction industry are seeking help from the public to curb activity, which they believe will add to their costs, delay construction and potentially drive up prices for home buyers and businesses.
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The Colorado Springs Housing & Building Association announced on Wednesday that it is working with Pikes Peak Area Crime Stoppers to deter the thefts increasing.
For information on the Crime Stoppers hotline leading to the arrest of construction site thieves and vandals, a reward of US $ 1,000 will be offered, which is funded by HBA members.
As with other crimes, information about theft and vandalism can be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 719-634-STOP (7867). The line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The non-profit Crime Stoppers, who work through donations and volunteers, send the information they receive to law enforcement agencies. Anonymous callers are given a special code that they can use to track their tips and receive their money in the event of arrest.
Construction site theft has always been a problem, said Renee Zentz, CEO of the HBA, during a press conference on a house construction site in the Flying Horse construction area on the north side of Colorado Springs.
But prices for building materials, especially lumber, skyrocketed last year and thefts exploded as a result, she said.
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Timber shortages caused by COVID-19-induced factory closures and work slowdowns, as well as angry demand for housing fueled by low mortgage rates, have driven prices soaring.
The National Association of Home Builders said in April that higher wood costs have increased the average price of a new single-family home by more than $ 35,000 in the past 12 months.
Building materials plants in Texas, which closed in mid-February due to the state’s freezing, also contributed to a shortage of building products and rising prices, Zentz said.
Amid this scarcity, stacks of lumber, plywood, and other building materials stored on construction sites and used for homes, apartments, shops, restaurants, offices, and the like have become inviting targets for thieves looking to resell the items. Thefts have even been attempted in lumber yards, members of the construction industry said.
Some construction companies have reported a 300 percent increase in thefts at construction sites in the past three months, and illegal activity has increased across Springs and El Paso Counties, Zentz said.
“You’re bolder than ever and it’s bigger than ever,” she said. “There has always been theft on the construction site, but not on this scale.”
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In the past, such thefts would have tended to take place in remote areas, said Zentz. Now, she said, they happened in residential areas.
That raises concerns that thieves could also stop to break into a parked car or steal a bike while driving through a neighborhood, although Zentz said she was unaware of such reports.
Still, “it’s a crime wave that could spread to other types of crimes,” Don Addy, president of the local Crime Stoppers group, said of building materials theft. “That is our big concern.”
Members of the construction industry do not want to talk about security measures they are taking on construction sites to combat theft, despite working with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department.
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“Lumber yards are being hit by opportunists everywhere to make money with the high prices for wood,” said Steve Schlosser, site manager at Classic Homes, one of the largest construction companies in the region. “My assumption is that based on what they see on Facebook, the materials they take will have a market for them, wherever it may be, to sell.”
The HBA is poised to hand out several $ 1,000 in rewards to catch thieves, Zentz said. Construction sites typically run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., she added; If activities take place outside of these hours, the public should report it to Crime Stoppers.
“Always on the suspicion side when it is much later than 7 p.m.,” said Zentz.