A string of construction site thefts in Lawrence has left home builders missing thousands of dollars in equipment and furniture.
"These are costs that become the cost of doing business," said Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Association. "The long-term costs do affect the consumer, the homeowner, unfortunately."
The thefts last week left builders with close to $30,000 in lost tools and furniture and damaged doors and windows.
The burglaries are the most recent in a series of reported home construction thefts in the last few months, with valued items such as copper wire and building supplies disappearing from work sites across the city.
The hardest hit last week were homes along Pennycress Drive in northwest Lawrence belonging to Highland Construction Inc. One model home had more than $15,000 worth of furniture and appliances stolen from it, police said.
Other homes in the subdivision lost appliances and even kitchen cabinets, which were unscrewed from walls.
This isn't the first time the company has been hit by thieves, construction manager Shannon Burnett said.
"Over the summer, they were robbing us blind on the houses that weren't finished yet, stealing all of the copper out of it," Burnett said.
Thieves also took tools and other equipment worth almost $3,000 from a site managed by Michael Nuffer Construction.
"It's sad that they're taking what somebody makes a living with," Nuffer said. "It's more of a setback than just losing tools."
All tools now will go home with the crews, Nuffer said. Time spent loading tools in and out at the beginning and end of every day can add hours to construction projects, he said.
Lawrence police Sgt. Paul Fellers said such thefts could be prevented by providing construction sites with plenty of lights, making sure tools are removed from the site or locked down, and installing appliances just before the new owners move in.
The recovery rate for heavy equipment stolen from construction sites is low, according to insurance statistics compiled by the National Equipment Register Inc. A 2005 report shows that since 1990, as little as 10 percent of stolen heavy equipment is ever recovered.
"Generally, individuals who take items from a construction site have an outlet for them," Fellers said.