Thieves Target Construction Sites

The Smith County Sheriff's Department is calling it a growing problem. Thieves are stealing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and materials from construction sites all over East Texas. Builders say since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the price of lumber and steel has gone up, making construction sites targets.

"We've had trailers stolen," said Bill Mahaffey, builder. "We've had construction equipment stolen, materials you know as far as trim, framing materials, hardware, light fixtures. You name it, we've had it stolen." Bill Mahaffey is building six houses in a new development called The Reserve. He says in the past six months, thieves have made off with $15,000 worth of materials. Just this week, he had $500 worth of painting equipment stolen.

"My guys they basically, it sets them back a day," said Mahaffey. "They had to get new materials to replace them, and a lot of it comes right out of our pockets. We have to pay for those things that get stolen and we have insurance, but it doesn't cover everything." Todd Green is building his own house in The Reserve. He says thieves have been to his house twice.

"They broke in the back door and took all of my appliances, all of my pluming fixtures and all of my lighting fixtures," said Todd Green, builder. Builders at The Reserve say there isn't much more they can do. They lock their homes, but still thieves are able to break in. That's why they are asking for the public's help.

"I don't know too many subcontractors that work at night, so if you see a car pull up to a job site at night give the sheriff's department a call," said Mahaffey. "They are probably up to no good."

"There's a market out there for it also, that somebody needs to address," said Green. "If somebody has a good deal on appliances, watch out. They are stealing them, or lumber or anything like that." With help from the public, builders say they are confident the thieves will be caught.

The Smith County Sheriff's Department says when it can, deputies drive by the construction sites at night. Officials also say they do not believe it's one group of thieves, but most likely several.

Molly Reuter, reporting.