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Construction theft becoming more common

WILMINGTON -- Construction theft is becoming an ever more common crime here in North Carolina. Builders say it's an easy crime and each year, they lose more money. We reported on this problem last week, and Tuesday another local builder is dealing with the problem. He says $30,000 worth of building materials was stolen from his construction site. Contractor Ricky Gilbert said, "A thief needs to be put where he belongs." He says thieves made off with up to $30,000 worth of copper and work tools. Copper is in high demand and value right now. Construction sites are prime targets Gilbert said, "Copper is untraceable, if there's a large amount of copper sold at the salvage yard, deputies could trace it a whole lot better by taking an ID from the customer and a license plate number." Right now salvage yards are not required to ask for a person's ID. Donna Girardot of the Wilmington Home Builders Association says that may track the thief, but it won't necessarily bring the items back. Girardot says contractors should take steps to mark their materials. "If they don't have serial numbers to find them there's no real way to prove that they're there's," she said. In the end if builders don't have insurance they are forced to absorb the cost or pass it on to the consumer. "This is the type of loss that just adds to the cost of housing, and we try to keep housing affordable for people in this part of the state. This is a problem for everyone," Girardot said. It's a problem that builders like Gilbert are tired of reporting. "Peoples are going into houses, going in to businesses like hours, stealing copper, just to make a quick dollar," Gilbert said. Authorities are still investigating the incident at Gilbert's construction sire. In 2005 the state made construction theft a felony. This year builders are pushing legislation that would make vandalism at construction sites a felony as well.

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