Construction crews dealing equipment theft

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Crews working on road projects across the Tri-State this summer not only have to deal with the sweltering heat, but thefts of equipment and materials as well.

The cost of these thefts nationally runs about $1 billion per year.

The bridge painting operation underneath the 6th Street Viaduct is a noisy, dirty job, not to mention the heat.

Dimitri Karalis, the site foreman for UCL, Inc. says what really makes the job tough is the theft of materials and equipment.

"Whatever they can get with their hands on, they will cut it off and take it with them," explained Karalis.

He said they've been plagued by thefts, "This is the worst area I've ever worked. It's constantly every two days, every two days."

An engineer with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) tells FOX19 construction sites all along the 6th Street Viaduct have been hit by thefts. Cincinnati Police Department statistics indicate there were 87 thefts from construction sites in 2012, and so far in 2013, there have been 37.

Sgt. Steve Saunders says it's a crime of opportunity.

"Sometimes you see sites that are targeted because of what's on the site. It might be wiring or something related to tools or equipment that are high value."

Karalis says the thieves hitting his job site are after a few dollars worth of copper, but it's costing his company thousands.

"It's probably about 4,000 everyday. It's four hours. It takes us four hours to go back to work. We need to buy new material. Man hours and production, it's about $3000-$4000," he revealed.

The costs of the thefts are not passed on to the taxpayers because most ODOT contractors are covered by insurance, and Karalis has begun locking up his equipment. However, some items are just too cumbersome to move every day.

Companies that recycle copper and other metals say they require a valid photo ID, and they take a photo of everyone who wants to sell scrap metal. The photo is then compared to a national data base of known thieves.

Cincinnati Police advise construction companies to secure their materials and equipment at the end of their work day and even install security cameras wherever possible.

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