Saturday, December 08, 2001

Building sites being plundered

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TWP. — As home construction booms here, so do thefts.

        In the last month and a half, eight construction-site thefts have been reported, said Sgt. Dave Smith of the Butler County Sheriff's Office. Items disappearing are mostly appliances such as electric ranges and microwaves. But materials that are harder to account for, such as lumber, are also are vanishing.

        The rash of thefts has police and builders on high alert. Butler County Sheriff Harold Don Gabbard and Liberty Township trustees recently approved extra overtime shifts and unmarked units for stepped-up patrols.

        Because most of the thefts are discovered in the early morning, police believe the items are being snatched overnight.

        “We don't see a whole lot of forced entry, which leads us to believe some of these may be inside jobs,” Sgt. Smith said this week. Builders are instructing their workers to lock all windows and doors and be on the lookout for anyone suspicious.

        “It's not the old-fashioned kind of theft where they throw a rock through a window,” said Steve O'Callahan, vice president of Dixon Builders LLC. He estimates his company has lost $7,000 to $8,000 in thefts in the past two months.

        “They try to be neat about it and get in where you won't notice through an unlocked door, or they bust out a basement window. There are subcontractors in these buildings and they see the things in there and maybe they tell somebody or intentionally leave a door or window unlocked.”

        The problem is compounded because some builders won't report thefts to police, he said. They don't want to turn the claim into their insurance company because of the expense involved.


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