Police see streak of tool thefts from construction job sites

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 21, 2014 

Puck lock

Businesses are buying puck locks like this one on a vending machine, to prevent thefts.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

After a construction company owner noticed thousands of dollars of tools were taken from his trailer on a construction site on Larrabee Avenue, he quickly realized he wasn't the only victim.

The Feb. 5 burglary prompted Chris Kazimer, owner of Rise Over Run construction in Deming, to call up his friends in the business community. All of them said they had experienced similar burglaries.

"I bet if you call the first three general contractors in the phone book, they would all say stuff had been stolen from them," Kazimer said.

Based on information Kazimer gave to Bellingham Police, Lt. Bob Vander Yacht estimates that nearly $10,000 in tools were stolen that night.

Stolen tools include several different kinds of saws, nail guns, caulking guns and sanders. Police currently have no leads, Vander Yacht said, but they routinely check local pawn shops and postings on Craigslist.

"The problem with property like this is it's pretty common," Vander Yacht said. "We can't pull over everyone who has tools in their truck."

Vander Yacht said crimes like this are streaky, meaning sometimes (as is the case recently) police will see five to 10 in a month and then nothing for a while. Vander Yacht said construction sites are often easy targets.

Vander Yacht recommends marking or engraving valuable items with a distinguishing mark or number. Police can enter into a database custom serial numbers to help track stolen property, Vander Yacht said.

As for Kazimer, he opted to search for a special kind of lock called a puck lock to better secure his trailer. Kazimer locked his trailer with a padlock before the burglary, and it was easily cut off, police said.

Kazimer went to Hardware Sales on James Street in Bellingham, but they were all sold out. Store employees told him several contractors had already bought the ones they had.

Hardware Sales floor manager Donald Newman said he normally only sells puck locks by special order, but since demand has gone up recently, he had been stocking a few extras on the shelves.

"People don't see the value in them until they get stolen from," Newman said.

Puck locks, also called hidden-shackle padlocks, provide extra security, Newman said, because the mechanism is on the inside of the lock. This makes it difficult for anyone to just take a pair of cutters to it, Newman said. However, puck locks retail at around $40, and padlocks usually retail for around $10.

Newman said he encountered a contractor who still suffered a theft after using a puck lock to secure his tools. In this case, thieves stole the whole truck.

"If they want it bad enough, they're going to get it." Newman said.

People who steal items like tools oftentimes look to sell them, Vander Yacht said, but they usually don't ask for full price. Vander Yacht said buyers should look out for being offered an expensive tool for far less than it's worth.

Reach James Kozanitis at 360-715-2249 or james.kozanitis@bellinghamherald.com.

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