By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

The Sandy Springs Police Department is creative when it comes to combating crime.

Officers recently launched the Construction Watch program, which calls on the builder community to help reduce thefts at construction sites.

“We’re a very innovative department,” said Senior Officer Larry Jacobs, the head of the department’s crime prevention division. “We’re trying to do everything we can. … But we can’t do it without the public’s support.”

Similar to Neighborhood Watch, the new endeavor aims to reduce thefts of high-end appliances like ranges, overhead ventilation vans, refrigerators and wine coolers while houses are being built.

The appliances, such as those made by Viking Range and Sub-Zero, can cost upward of $10,000.

Because the equipment is often built into kitchen cabinets, the items arrive on job sites early in construction. Often the electrical power has not yet been connected, so there is no security system for the high-dollar machines.

“The items are very vulnerable,” Jacobs said. “When you have a bunch of builders going in and out every day, somebody may leave a door open accidentally.”

The Construction Watch program hopes to safeguard the site at that time, but people “are going to have to put something into it to get something out of it.”

Builders must agree to obtain GPS tracking devices for their appliances. Police recommend active monitoring systems, which cost $250 to $500 each to purchase or $99 a month to rent.

“It might not even be a month before they have electricity,” Jacobs said. “They could buy one or two of these (GPS devices) and just keep changing them out. It’s a very temporary thing.”

Builders also inventory their appliances by recording serial numbers and identifying information on a sheet available from City Hall. They take the form and the GPS devices to police headquarters on Barfield Road, where Jacobs will provide a sign to display on the construction site. It warns that the appliances are registered with the police.

In the event of a burglary, the builder can call the police to recover the goods. The appliances are easy to track online with active monitoring devices.

“They would definitely be assisting us,” Jacobs said. But, he added, the program could cut construction costs and lower insurance premiums, as well as curb crime. “You might be able to clear up a half-dozen crimes by catching that one person, because, trust me, that’s not the first time that they did it.”

Given that Construction Watch is an experimental program and might not attract many participants while residential building is at a lull, police are looking to the future.

“I’m hoping when the economy picks up, it might be a tool for us,” Jacobs said. “We might be a little more ready once these things start again.”

For more information on the program, contact Jacobs at 770-551-3328 or laurence.jacobs@sandyspringsga.org.