PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The cost of building projects is likely going up even more as construction site thefts and burglaries become more and more common on the Treasure Coast.
Port St. Lucie police responded Monday morning to a burglary at a construction site located off Southeast Becker Road, the third on the Treasure Coast in less than a week.
Police said more than $30,000 worth of copper, wire, tools and generators were stolen from the site of a new apartment complex under construction behind a Publix. Detectives are actively searching for the thieves.
Martin County deputies made two arrests last week involving similar cases.
Deputies arrested Arisbel Paumier Mendez on Wednesday in connection with burglarizing tools.
Just days earlier, deputies arrested two Miami men, Enrique Quintero, 44, and Vincent Monds, 33, after expensive lawn equipment was stolen.
"Martin County is clearly going through a growth cycle, so there's a lot of construction sites wherever you look," Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said. "With that comes the rise in construction site thefts."
Snyder said thieves are targeting everything from heavy machinery, to lumber, to tools and copper wiring, which are all items becoming more expensive with inflation.
"We always see, in my industry, when the cost of something goes up, the likelihood that it will be stolen goes up accordingly," Snyder said.
Snyder also said the perpetrators are usually coming from out of town, out of county or even out of state.
"They just go from one county to the other, stealing what they can get their hands on," Snyder said.
The sheriff added with the cost of these goods not declining anytime soon, he doesn't foresee the demand for thefts decreasing anytime soon, either.
"I'm not surprised," Port St. Lucie contractor, Anthony Gizze, who owns Gizze Construction Inc., said.
Gizze has experienced similar thefts firsthand.
"We've had tools stolen off the job, materials have been stolen," Gizze said. "We've had a water heater stolen."
In his three years of operating his business, Gizze said those thefts have caused thousands of dollars in losses. And while he does have builders risk insurance to help protect against thefts, the increase in claims has caused a major increase in his premium.
"My insurance has doubled," Gizze said. "We're passing [the cost] off to the consumer."
Gizze said in order to make a profit, he has to charge his customers anywhere from hundreds to thousands more for a job.
"I could see that being questionable, 'Is the insurance really that high?' but it is," Gizze said.
Still, Gizze said he has faith his customers will understand, knowing what Gizze pays out can't be more than what he takes in.
"I'm very transparent with my pricing," Gizze said. "I love to build, and I love to plan everything out, but I love to make money."
Gizze also said he takes several safety precautions to safeguard his equipment, including the installation of security cameras, locking away his equipment and hiding it from sight.
Snyder also said he recommends neighbors watch out for one another, and asked if anyone in the community sees anything suspicious at a construction site at night, that they contact his office immediately.
In Port St. Lucie, officers reported a 31% decrease in construction site thefts and burglaries in the past year compared to the previous 12 months. They are asking anyone with any information about Sunday's burglary to come forward.
Police said the crooks were last seen driving away in a white box truck.
If you know information, call Detective Papaleo at 772-871-5052.