Construction sites are often isolated and devoid of inhabitants on holidays, weekends and overnight, making them ideal targets for thieves who want to pick up building supplies unnoticed and unpaid for. In recent years, contractors nationwide have reported a wave of thefts of everything from standard building materials, tools and appliances to heavy equipment and vehicles. These construction site thefts result in millions of dollars in losses.

The cost of stolen materials doesn’t accurately represent total losses. In many cases, materials are ordered by color, style and size; if they are stolen, the developer may have to wait a long time for replacements.

In southern California, innovative technology from Extreme CCTV and a unique, on-site security service from Smart System Technologies’ (SST) 24-Hour Surveillance Towers addresses this problem. In fact, it has landed several thieves in hot water with the law.

Smart Systems Technologies, headquartered in Laguna Hills, Calif., is a low-voltage residential integrator of home security, theater, audio and central vacuum systems. In the course of providing these technologies for the modern lifestyle, SST had been asked by builders and developers how they might better secure their job sites before the houses are ready for occupancy. To meet the builders’ needs, SST developed its 24-Hour Surveillance Towers division.

Using SST Surveillance Tower Service assures a builder that acts of material or equipment theft are likely to be captured on a digital video system, which not only sees in the dark, but also intensifies license plate numbers for indisputable identification. By producing clear digital images of the culprit in either daytime or nighttime, the theft may be documented. By retrieving the license plate number of the vehicle involved, the thief may be captured.

SST uses the Extreme CCTV REGTM License Plate Reader and infrared illuminators, which integrate with industry-standard DVRs to capture license plate numbers in day or night conditions. Extreme CCTV is located in Burnaby, British Columbia.

“Three years ago, in response to numerous requests, SST began looking for a workable solution to construction site theft,� said John Curran, director of operations for the SST 24-hour Surveillance Tower Division. “We found the Extreme CCTV system to be of the highest quality and the most reliable. The resulting system works even better than we hoped. The REGTM License Plate Reader and IR illuminators from Extreme CCTV have made day and night identifications (via license plate numbers) and convictions a reality, and have created a whole new service business for us.�

Here’s how the system works: When an order for the 24-Hour Surveillance Tower is received, the best location for cameras is determined and towers are placed appropriately. Each tower has four cameras mounted at the top and reaches up to 25 feet high. The tower’s concrete base weighs 5,000 pounds and contains a secured vault where the digital recorder is located. The cameras record images 24 hours a day for seven days a week. They are checked once a month by SST staff to assure they are operating properly. In the event of a theft, the builder notifies SST, who immediately retrieves the digital recorder and replaces it to assure uninterrupted service.

The retrieved recorder is then reviewed by SST personnel, who are trained in finding evidence of the incident as quickly as possible. Copies of the pertinent digital information are given to the customer, along with a formal report of the incident and still shots from the video images obtained. In most cases, the information is given to local authorities who, with a clear license plate number as evidence, usually have no problem locating and convicting the perpetrators.

“Almost anybody can install cameras and capture some video information such as ‘a white truck is seen driving into a site on a Sunday afternoon and is seen leaving 30 minutes later with a load of lumber.’ Unfortunately, this is far from sufficient for police to launch an investigation and this is all most cameras can supply. With the REGTM license plate reader…we can give the police a way to access the documented name and address of the vehicle owner, making it easier to track down than just the information that it was a white truck,� Curran said. “Many acts of theft are committed at night, when thieves believe they are under cover of darkness. The IR illuminators provide enough light for the license numbers to be clearly recorded, once again providing indisputable evidence of the vehicle’s presence on the site.�

The advantages of digital technology are its multitude of uses. Some SST customers draw on the installed cameras for various other reasons. Several customers have DSL hooked to the systems, making images available for view from various on-site or off-site locations. One contractor uses the video information to confirm delivery of materials and to monitor work. Another uses the cameras to display sites to potential buyers.