Thieves want your tools, cops warn | VailDaily.com
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Thieves want your tools, cops warn

J.K. Perry
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Daily file photoBecause thieves are targetting tools and building materials, local cops are warning contractors and construction workers to secure their equipment.
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EAGLE COUNTY ” Mike Whitfield tucked an envelope containing $500 in his truck, then left the truck unlocked and unattended at a Beaver Creek construction site. Half an hour later, they money was gone.

“There’s a lot of things that walk away there,” Whitfield said.

He suspects some construction workers resting on a nearby wall took the money, but couldn’t prove it.

While construction site thieves normally steal tools and metals, Whitfield’s case is symbolic of a crime plaguing Eagle County. Valley police regularly get reports of construction theft.

The largest burglary may have occurred at Costco this summer when thieves stole and damaged $500,000 in materials while the big-box store was still being built.

And thefts increased this summer when the price of copper rose, Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Brandon Beaudette said. The copper is stolen then resold to scrapyards for a profit.

“The theft of copper is going to be directly related to commodity values,” Beaudette said.

Two recent Wildridge thefts prompted police and contractors to meet Thursday and discuss ways to prevent construction site thefts.

“We haven’t been hit yet,” said Carlos Vidaurri, a construction worker who attended the meeting. “We thought it might be better not to be hit.”

Thefts often go unreported, leaving police unable to catch criminals and understand the degree of the problem, Avon Police Chief Brian Kozak said. Kozak asked contractors to report every theft.

“This scumbag that’s stealing your stuff, we have to prosecute them,” he said.

To prevent thefts, Kozak said contractors should post no trespassing signs around their construction sites and write a letter to local police authorizing officers to arrest trespassers. Otherwise, trespassers can only be warned and then allowed to leave the property.

Police also suggested contractors look out for each other, lock tools, adequately light construction sites, eliminate places thieves might hide and build fences, among other measures.

Avon Councilman Dave Dantas, himself a home builder, said he blocks his construction sites with heavy machinery to prevent thieves from hauling tools and materials out with trucks.

Whitfield suspects laborers often steal.

“Instead of a quiet small mountain town, you’re in a transient community with people more likely to steal,” Whitfield said.

Kozak also recommended screening workers and subcontractors and limiting the number of subcontractors at construction sites. When somebody steals, they should be fired and other contractors should be alerted, he said.

“Probably a large part of the thefts comes from people you hire,” Kozak said.

Kozak also told contractors to hire a security firm to watch their sites, use cameras and an alarm system.

When contractors fail to secure their sites, workers often suffer.

“I have a lot of problems with general contractors’ securing their sites,” said one man who didn’t want his name used. “They couldn’t care less if the site is secure. How do I get contractors to start doing something?”

Tools that are marked, perhaps with paint, are easier for police to find, Beaudette said.

“All I can think of is protect yourself,” said Richard Bakkie, a construction supervisor.

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.


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