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Housing Industry Boom a Boon to Gangs of Thieves

Authorities say they've broken a ring that stole millions of dollars in tools from job sites.

August 24, 2005|Amanda Covarrubias and Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writers

"We tell the contractors, if you can afford it, you need to do something to prevent it," said California Highway Patrol investigator Gabe Marquez, who works in the southern division's auto theft unit. "There's LoJack and GPS tracking that you can put on your equipment, and you can put cameras on your job site. This all costs a lot of money, but one loss can set you back $20,000, and that's just for property. They also steal lumber and rebar and all the other materials associated with building a home. All that's taken into the cost of building homes."

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said construction-site theft in San Bernardino has been concentrated near Rancho Cucamonga and the high desert city of Victorville.

Victorville-area builders have reported generators and tools stolen from locked storage containers and pickup truck beds, and Rancho Cucamonga authorities have taken reports of missing heavy equipment, wheels and tools, Beavers said.

"It's a common problem throughout the county, especially now with the construction boom going on," Beavers said. "We can't say if the numbers are increasing, and we're unsure if the thefts are part of this ring, but it's definitely happening here."

Beavers said authorities are encouraging builders to mark their tools to discourage pawnshop sales and assist in recoveries.

"The construction companies for the most part are doing their jobs, even hiring private security to watch their construction sites," she said. "But the crooks can be very determined."

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\o7Times staff writer Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.\f7

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