After having nearly $10,000 in materials stolen from a job site, Stronghold Roofing took measures to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Thanks to those preventative measures, the Oklahoma City contractor recently discovered stolen materials in the possession of a competitor.

Zach Simmons, vice president of Stronghold Roofing, said when roofing the new Almonte Library in March, Stronghold endured project delays and left materials at the site for weeks on end. Thieves swept in and stole adhesives valued around $7,000 to $10,000, and with no on-site cameras or methods to track it down, Stronghold had no recourse for recovery.

The company decided to purchase AirTags — small tracking devices developed by Apple that can be located using the Find My network — to keep track of their supplies moving forward.

“Our rationale was $400 to $500 worth of AirTags would’ve been less than one box of [adhesive] for us to recover that material,” he said.

With the AirTags in hand, the company deployed them on a new job, slipping the small disks into boxes of materials while being careful not to break any manufacturer seals. They hadn’t expected anything to be pilfered, but as it turns out, that precaution paid off as they checked their materials about two weeks ago.

“Toward the end of that week, we were doing a reconciliation of material count and almost joking about the AirTags and their usefulness at a morning meeting, and realized that 14 of our 15 AirTags were back at our office, and one was several miles away,” he said.

Once they make sure technical glitches weren't to blame, they discovered the missing AirTag was at a location not too far from their office. Stronghold was familiar with the site – an out-of-state roofing company was doing TPO work on an apartment complex at that location.

Tracking Down Suspects

Using a phone to track the device, several employees went to the site while it was raining — meaning the roofing crew wasn’t there — and narrowed down the location to a Conex container with roofing supplies. With help from the Oklahoma City police as well as the property manager, they found about $300 worth of materials like nails had been stolen and used by the contractor.

Simmons said Stronghold contacted the roofing contractor, which was sympathetic to their situation and showed Stronghold their purchased materials receipt, demonstrating the company itself hadn’t ordered those materials.

“We found out that it was several boxes of pop nails they had taken from our shingle project,” he said. “They had dumped that box out into several of their own containers. Our AirTag had actually been dumped out in the mix and kicked out on the ground.”

Simmons said he suspects some disgruntled workers took the materials and were hired by the out-of-state contractor, having previously been dismissed from a Stronghold worksite due to not having proper PPE. However, no charges are being filed, as it can't be proven which employees stole the supplies. Simmons said the company is also taking a “do unto others” approach to the situation.

“Ultimately, we are open to the same exposure. If some guys get fired on another site and then come to work for us and just so happened to have another contractor’s material, we would like that same grace from another contractor,” he said.

It’s a cautionary tale that Stronghold hopes will help other contractors. Simmons’ advice to roofing contractors is to not only purchase tracking devices, but to label them and take photos of the materials corresponding to the device prior to each job. By doing so, contractors have a record of their materials, which is helpful for law enforcement when tracking down stolen goods.

“When the material got stolen, we just knew it was ‘AirTag 10,’ we didn’t know what material AirTag 10 was associated with,” he said. “If one does go missing, we at least know what we’re looking for and not have to go back and double-check.

“It’s proof of concept for us, and a learning experience to make it more efficient for us in the future if any materials are stolen.”

Stronghold isn't the only roofing contractor in recent history to have materials stolen. Incidents have been reported in California, Florida, and Texas. In February, thieves stole a worker's pickup truck  in broad daylight in Kansas.