MARYSVILLE — Each year hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment and materials are stolen from construction sites around the country.
Heavy equipment and copper often top the thieves’ wish lists, but the haul can take many forms.
The recent arrest of a Marysville man is evidence of that. He was caught with more than $10,000 in missing goods, including bath tubs, sinks, lights and fixtures, grout, caulk, lumber, shutters, columns, doors, trusses, nails, sub flooring, wall sheeting and a garbage disposal.
Marysville police and the North Snohomish County Property Crime Unit believe the suspect would rent a truck and load it with stolen goods taken from construction sites in King and Snohomish counties. They recovered goods being stored at two Marysville-area homes.
In both cases, the people living at the homes said the suspect asked to store the materials in exchange for making repairs.
Police traced the goods back to four contractors whose job sites had been looted.
Another contractor was reunited with 15 five-gallon paint buckets. Another recovered windows and several boxes of tile.
Police also seized a shower stall, toilet tanks and beams, among other things.
The suspect, 36, allegedly told friends he planned to build a house with the stolen materials.
Mike Pattison works as a governmental affairs manager for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. He knows of one contractor who estimates that he loses about $100,000 a year in thefts.
“It is a problem,” Pattison said. “It is costly and it is extremely frustrating.”
His organization encourages contractors to ask neighbors to keep an eye on their building sites and report their suspicions. Sometimes, the builders have to hire nighttime security.
As the weather warms, patrol officers are checking in more frequently at construction sites, said Terry Haldeman, a detective with the Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force.
In 2013, the auto theft task force recovered more than $500,000 in stolen heavy equipment. Often the big machinery is taken from construction sites at night or on weekends.
Typically, the value of stolen heavy equipment across the country reaches $400 million each year. Loaders and tractors are particularly popular with thieves.
“It’s something contractors are battling all the time,” Haldeman said.
Such is the case for a Monroe contractor who had the same John Deere mini-excavator stolen twice over the course of a week in late May or early June, Haldeman said. It was taken from a King County job site. In both instances, his equipment was recovered.
Also last week, a concrete company had a Ford F-550 pickup truck loaded with generators and tools stolen after someone cut a padlock to break through a fenced enclosure in Marysville. The pickup was found in Everett.
Sometimes construction site theft hits close to home. Haldeman is friends with a young couple building a home in Marysville a year ago. Thieves stole their appliances and fixtures and several special-order items.
“Every stitch of it was gone,” he said.
Pattison from the Master Builders said construction theft doesn’t necessarily stop with an arrest.
“I think a further frustration is far too often this type of criminal is right back on the street committing the same crime,” he said. “Clearly recidivism is a big problem in construction site theft.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.