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Protect your building materials, lumber from theft

The cost of building materials shot sky-high during the pandemic, with the price of lumber, in particular, breaking records.

In the last year the rising lumber prices have meant that the price of a new single-family home in the U.S. has risen by $18,600, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Unfortunately, thieves have also caught on to this trend with reports of increases in lumber theft in various parts of the country making the news these last two years.

While the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office says that out in the county there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in lumber theft, Sgt. Chris Iversen of the Ocean Shores Police Department says Ocean Shores is seeing a bit of an increase.

“While we don’t specifically track or differentiate lumber thefts or building material thefts from other types of thefts, I can tell you from personal observation that there does seem to be more of this going on lately,” Sgt. Iversen said.

Why the increase in Ocean Shores?

While likely many factors are at play, Sgt. Iversen said, the surge in lumber prices combined with many news homes being built around the city likely increases “the opportunities for such thefts.”

“Another reason could be that there are fewer police officers on patrol to act as a visible deterrent to crime in general,” he said.

Preventing material theft

Both Sgt. Iverson and Kevin Schrader, Grays Harbor County’s chief criminal deputy, offered some pointers on what homeowners and builders can do to prevent these crimes.

It’s a good idea to take extra precautions,” Schrader said, “including keeping the worksite well-lit at night.”

“It’s also good to lock up all tools and other valuables and don’t leave them on the job site if you don’t have too,” he said. “In addition, you can buy surveillance cameras for less than a hundred dollars that will send you a picture to your phone at the time something is happening,” Schrader said.

Iversen said improved security at the worksite or building site itself could also make a difference.

“I worked briefly in the construction industry in Southern California roughly 30 years ago,” he said. “Many of the sites where I worked had temporary fencing placed around them to prevent theft and/or vandalism. Temporary fencing is seldom seen used here. It would be an added expense, certainly, but it would cut down the occurrence of theft substantially.”

Both men agreed that alert neighbors or passersby can help curb the theft at building sites.

“If you are building something, talk to your neighbors and have them look around for things,” chief criminal deputy Kevin Schrader said.

Iversen offered an example of when alert neighbors made all the difference. “I had one incident recently where a neighbor approached subjects that he saw removing building materials from a site across the street from his home.

“While they were able to convince him that they belonged there, he still felt uneasy about the situation and made note of their vehicle’s description. When he learned later that the subjects had really been stealing the materials, he provided a good witness statement to police,” Iversen said.

Iversen said that although there has been an increase, “it is still relatively rare” in Ocean Shores.

We are both glad to see lumber prices headed down and to hear that good neighbors are doing their part. Stay diligent and the theft of building materials will quickly decline.


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