Burglars targeting construction sites

Construction thefts increased as building permits increased

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Burglaries at construction sites throughout St. Johns County have been on the rise for the past couple of years.

The number more than doubled in 2013 and the increase in 2012 came with a huge increase in the number of building permits issued. About 660 more permits were issued last year than in 2012.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said they really need the public's help in finding the burglars that are affecting local businesses.

"We're hoping maybe they can find something out but that's kind of difficult to trace so we'll just have to take the hit," said Thomas Heath, president of Heath Electric Inc.

Heath Electric in St. Johns County recently had equipment stolen from one of its construction sites.

Temporary wire for an electric panel was taken from a locked site at a local mall. He has other wires but says that was his best and it cost him around $1,400.

"It hurts your profit margin as it's competitive now and you have a low profit margin now. You have to be concerned. ‘Hey, am I going to make it if this keeps happening?'" Heath said.

Heath's site was locked, but the majority of construction sites burglarized were not. He said many sites go unlocked because companies don't want to haul heavy equipment back and forth to a job every day.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said there were 23 sited construction site burglaries in 2012 and 54 in 2013.

The Sheriff's Office is stepping up patrol in areas that have seen increased burglaries, but they really need the public's help.

"If you live in a subdivision or area where new construction is going on, maybe a different phase, if you see strange activity after hours after the construction company has already left please give us a call," said Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan.

The Sheriff's Office said just about anything can be stolen: wire, appliances, they've even seen front doors ripped off. Heath said his company is starting to put more storage boxes at their sites that are harder to break into, to hopefully put an end to this crime.

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