Habitat for Humanity affiliates can easily fall victim to theft at both jobsites and ReStores. Annually, thefts have resulted in thousands of dollars worth of claims for the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program, with the cost of claims increasing 104% between 2019 and 2020. The true cost of theft may be even higher, since official claims track only the thefts greater than the $5,000 deductible threshold.
To protect your affiliate, it’s important to minimize the risk of theft at your jobsites and ReStores. Follow these tips for theft prevention to help minimize theft at your affiliate.
Theft Prevention at Jobsites
- Try to make the jobsite appear bare and unattractive. By reducing its visual appeal, your jobsite will be less noticeable to thieves.
- Install security systems and motion lights on the exterior of the home under construction. Lights can scare a thief into thinking someone is onsite, or that a neighbor will be alerted to their activity.
- Keep close tabs on your subcontractors. Know who you’re hiring and who will be on your site. Loyal, long-term subcontractors will be good partners and will be less likely to steal from you.
- Install mesh or wire fencing around your jobsite. This will limit access to the jobsite and reduce the risk of a slip or trip accident by a trespasser. Many affiliates use orange mesh fencing since it is inexpensive and highly visible.
- Lock up your jobsite securely. While it may only slow thieves down, they may become frustrated and leave. Use heavy-duty chains and padlocks.
- Make sure any trailers used to store tools and equipment are secured and located in a well-lit area away from trees or shrubbery that may block visibility.
- Immobilize your equipment, including backhoes, bobcats, trailers, and so on, by removing keys when not in use, removing wheels, or using standard locks.
- Avoid leaving tools and equipment on a jobsite over the weekend. Remove valuable tools from jobsites or store in a locked area out of sight and away from windows. Think about moving your high-value construction equipment and materials to an off-site 24-hour secured storage facility.
- Consider marking tools to show ownership and identification using theft-deterrence techniques such as die stamps or etching tools.
- Schedule material drop-offs for the day those materials will be needed. Stacks of excess material are an invitation for thieves to steal.
- Reach out to your local police department and ask them to patrol your area at night.
- Promote a neighborhood watch program and encourage residents to keep an eye out for homes under construction.
- Follow state and local guidelines and be sure to post “No Trespassing” signs. Trespassers caught onsite could potentially be arrested or prosecuted.
Theft Prevention at ReStores
- Make sure that cash registers are “bled off” periodically during the day and emptied and left open during non-operating hours.
- Keep cash on-premises to a minimum by making frequent bank deposits with varied times and routes.
- Appropriately place security cameras inside and out to reduce the potential for theft and fraud.
- Inspect and maintain security alarms regularly to ensure they are in proper operating condition.
- Train employees and volunteers on the proper procedures for opening and closing the premises.
- Equip all exterior doors with deadbolt locks and padlocks in channels for roll-up overhead doors.
- Select the right employees and volunteers. Conduct reference and background checks on applicants before hiring. Be consistent and make sure that if you screen one candidate you screen all candidates.
- Treat and pay employees fairly. When employees feel cheated or devalued, they are more likely to justify theft.
- Have an open-door policy. Employees and volunteers are most aware of areas vulnerable to fraud. Talk to them and ask for their help in reporting possible areas of concern. Make employees and volunteers feel that it is okay to discuss concerns with management and that discussions will be kept confidential.
- Create a culture of accountability. Do this by conducting regular, unannounced third-party audits and have policies in place for the handling of cash, donations, check writing and expense payouts.
- Make sure employees and volunteers conduct all sales at the register, without exception or excuses.
- Monitor staff parking to ensure donations from the drop-off center are not ending up in the back of employee vehicles.
- Make vacation time mandatory. Employee fraud and theft are often noticed during the extended absence of a perpetrator, when other employees gets a chance to take a look at the books.
A high incidence of theft has costs beyond claims. Construction time can be impacted when valuable tools, materials, and equipment at jobsites are stolen or damaged, and hours or days may be lost waiting for item replacements and delaying the organization’s important mission. ReStores are also impacted by loss of inventory, tools and money on premises, and non-inventoried products may not be covered in such a loss.
To protect your affiliate from the risks of theft, make sure to follow these tips and ensure employees are trained and supervised to assist with minimizing the risk.