A new anti-theft initiative is aiming to drastically reduce theft from new home construction sites.
Operation Hands Off! is a partnership between a group of Edmonton-area homebuilders and a company called MicroDotDNA Technology.
The company will be marking construction supplies and equipment with tiny tracking and tracing devices.
About the size of a grain of sand, these markings are virtually invisible and also include a unique identification number that provides positive identification of assets, said Pat Cowman, president of MicroDotDNA Technology and Operation Hands Off.
“The primary application of this is theft deterrence,” Cowman said.
He noted that a lot of theft is organized and the risk of getting caught is low.
“Our program makes the risk to those individuals much greater,” he said.
Even when stolen items are found, they’re rarely returned to the owner because there’s no way of linking the two, he said.
The program will be used on everything from lumber to appliances. It will also include “bait property” planted to entice would-be thieves. An example could be a box of screws equipped with tracking devices and video surveillance.
“The message that we’re trying to get out there is basically bait property is everywhere. Steal it, go to jail,” Cowman said.
Mark Turner, operations manager with the Landmark Group of Companies spearheaded the program along with Cowman. Landmark is currently building at The Lakes development in Morinville.
Signs will be popping up at all sites and all will have supplies and equipment marked, Turner said.
Theft costs builders thousands of dollars, he said.
“The scale of the problem is that it’s organized. There’s definitely components out there that have this organized. It’s not just your small scale guy with a pickup grabbing a few things,” Turner said.
“I would hope to realize at least an 80 per cent reduction,” he added.
Turners knows that dedicated criminals always find a way around security measures, but he thinks it will take a while to figure out a way around the micro-DNA.
“This is really advanced,” he said. “I’m not sure what they could do to catch up with this.”
Theft from construction sites fluctuates depending on the economy and the neighbourhood but probably averages out to a cost of $1,000 to $2,000 per home, said Claude Rekken, construction manager with Reid-Built Homes, which is building in St. Albert and Morinville.
The new security measures will cost less than $100 per house, Rekken said.
While passersby will notice new signs at construction sites, the program is designed to be mostly covert.
“The point of this operation is you can’t see what’s marked or where it’s marked,” Rekken said.
Theft not only costs builders money, but it delays projects, which adversely affects clients, he said.
“We’re optimistic that this will significantly reduce the theft,” he said.