Thieves have always targeted vulnerable jobsites, but the problem has worsened as the prices of copper and other metals have soared. We've never had a major theft-related loss at Mark IV Builders, thanks largely to these preventive measures:

Zero tolerance. Besides running background checks on all prospective hires, we have a zero-tolerance policy against stealing, doing anything else illegal, or even getting into a physical altercation with another crew member.

Knowledgeable neighbors. Who knows better what goes on after hours? Our superintendent (lead carpenter) pays a friendly visit to several neighbors before each job begins. He explains what we'll be doing, who will be there and when, and invites them to call with questions or problems. If the neighbors aren't home, he leaves a door hanger. We also keep projects well-lit at night, outside and in, particularly when the clients have moved out.

Site lock-down. Each super is accountable for the security of his or her jobsite. We provide every job with a steel job box that is chained to a tree or Dumpster and used to lock away company-owned power tools. We also post caution tape and no-trespassing signs at unoccupied homes, board up access to additions, and use simple tactics like wedged-in boards to secure windows and glass doors that have temporary hardware.

Finally, we never jump to conclusions. If something seems to have gone missing, we double-check to make sure it wasn't misplaced, so nobody is falsely accused of anything. — Andy Hannan is the production manager of Mark IV Builders, Bethesda, Md.