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Idaho contractors see spike in theft

Contractors in the Boise region say workplace thefts are on the rise, with plumbing fixtures, wood boards and even landscaping plants being stolen from building sites.

The Idaho Statesman reports Tradewinds General Contracting has had more than $20,000 in losses at one job site in two months.

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has received 16 reports of construction site burglaries in the city of Eagle between Jan. 1 and Aug. 10. That compares to just three burglaries during the same period last year.

Rick Morrow, a construction superintendent for Tradewinds General Contracting, awoke Wednesday morning to an alert on his cellphone. Someone was prowling at a home the company is building in a Meridian subdivision.

Morrow called police and drove to the site, arriving within about three minutes. He spotted a rental van driving down the street.

When police stopped the van, they found a stack of oriented strand boards inside. The plywood-like materials had been stolen from the construction site, Morrow said, and the couple inside the van was charged with felony grand theft.

The boards fetch about $11 on the black market, half of the new cost.

“It’s really strange,” said Steven Martinez, owner of Tradewinds, based in Garden City. “Typically, it’s plumbing fixtures, appliances and things that are easy to sell.”

The theft problem has become so serious the Building Contractors Association of Southwestern Idaho sent letters Aug. 31 to Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Kuna and Star, asking for help from mayors and police departments.

The letters noted losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars in materials, staging furniture and rental equipment. The letter said contractors cannot afford to hire security officers or install surveillance cameras at each home under construction.

“As the theft loss is mounting, we sincerely ask that the local jurisdictions strive to have adequate patrols to curb the amount of theft in new construction zones,” the letter said.

Meridian Deputy Chief Tracy Basterrechea said his department patrols construction sites as much as possible, but officers can’t be everywhere.

“There’s so much construction going on that it’s hard to hit every construction site without neglecting your duties to the rest of the city,” he said. “And you may go through there and five minutes later, they’re going through there and taking it.”

Police are warning builders to lock up as much of their equipment and supplies as possible.

About The Associated Press