While crimes at residential construction sites aren’t frequent in the Park Cities, they can end up causing some big financial losses.
Since 2013, Highland Park has seen an increase in criminal activity at residential construction sites, the number growing from nine in 2013 to 19 in 2015. University Park remained steady with eight reported incidents in 2013 and 2014, but that number decreased to three in 2015. As of August, HP had nine recorded incidents, and University Park had seven.
But according to HPDPS spokesperson Lance Koppa, those numbers could be different if 100 percent of crimes were reported.
“There are crimes that go unreported and for the victims of those crimes who simply don’t want to get the police involved, that doesn’t help us paint a picture of what is actually going on,” Koppa said.
When it comes to theft at a residential construction site, Koppa says personal items belonging to the homeowner are often left alone. More often it is big appliances or work tools belonging to construction workers that are targeted. For example, a victim reported that between 6 p.m. Aug. 13 and 6:30 a.m. Aug. 15, a burglar broke into a construction site in the 3200 block of Purdue Street and stole $20,583.73 in miscellaneous appliances.
“They tend to get things that are easily pawned,” Koppa said. “Power tools and other higher-end items. Those are going to be recently installed appliances. When our investigators go and take a look, clearly it was someone who knew what they were doing.”
According to officer Lita Snellgrove with University Park Police Department, UP sees appliance thefts from residential construction sites that are more than likely planned.
Theft of smaller items are often crimes of opportunity, according to Koppa.
“They would have to know when these appliances have been moved in,” Snellgrove said. “Sometimes people will walk up and say they’re looking for work, and that could be a way for checking things out.”
According to Snellgrove, it’s rare that these stolen items will be recovered.
“We have had leads on people who have stolen the items, but not in us receiving those items and getting them back,” she said.
Snellgrove also reports that vandalism is not as common at residential constructions sites as thefts or burglaries.
“When we do have that a lot of time it is teenagers doing the vandalism,” she said.
While both HPDPS and UP Police offer security services to homes under construction, some homeowners invest in video surveillance and private security systems.
In addition to professional protection, Koppa and Snellgrove both said that watchful neighbors are an important resource.
“If they see something suspicious or close by call the police,” Koppa advises. “And that’s just if [the suspect] is on the property.”