British Columbia

High lumber prices behind spike in construction site thefts, Vancouver police say

The skyrocketing cost of lumber in B.C. could be what is behind a recent spike in theft from construction sites on the city's West Side, say Vancouver police.

7 sites on city's West Side have been targeted since January; no sign of price drop any time soon

Vancouver police warn that thieves are targeting construction sites for lumber due to soaring market values. (Stu Mills/CBC)

The skyrocketing cost of lumber in B.C. could be what is behind a recent spike in theft from construction sites on the city's West Side, say Vancouver police.

Since January this year, at least seven construction sites in the area have been targeted, police said in a statement Wednesday.

In one case, thieves got away with more than $10,000 worth of plywood.

"In many cases, the thieves have made off with thousands of dollars in plywood and other building materials. We're encouraging site managers to take precautions to avoid future thefts," Sgt. Steve Addison said in the statement.

The most recent theft was reported May 10 at a construction site in Kerrisdale, where three pallets of roofing shingles and 60 sheets of plywood were stolen after being left unsecured for several days, the statement said.

Police said that theft follows similar crimes in Arbutus Ridge, Kitsilano, Marpole and Dunbar.

Police said they do not yet know who is responsible for the construction thefts, nor do they have any suspects in custody, but believe they must be using large trucks or vans.

Addison said the department is recommending the following tips to deter future thefts from construction sites:

  • Plan ahead, and don't have more building materials on your site than you will need for that work day.
  • Time material deliveries. Don't place an order for a Friday afternoon if there is no work happening on the weekend.
  • Consider securing extra materials on an upper floor of the building under construction, or place a heavy object like the forks of a forklift on top so thieves can't easily access them.

Values tantalize thieves

Lumber industry experts warn that it could be years before prices go down to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the latest provincial data, plywood prices have gone up threefold compared to previous annual averages.

As of March, a basic SPF (spruce, pine, fir) two-by-four cost $1,040 per thousand board feet, while the annual average in 2019 was $372, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development's weekly forest product price tracking.

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call police at 604-717-4034, or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

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