RENO, Nev. A&K Earthmovers, a general engineering contractor and subcontractor in Northern Nevada and the western United States, is currently working on a sewer project for the city of Reno.
They have been at it for about 3 weeks and are working on 11 different work sites. They say some vandalism, like tagging, is par for the course on construction sites, but engineering manager Chris Spross says they've been hit with an abnormally large amount of it.
"We've had about 5 or 6 different cases," Spross said.
At one of their storage sites on Clearacre near McCarran, Spross says vandals have tagged road signs, broken truck windows, and have started stealing tools.
But the most serious incident came over the weekend.
"I heard it start up, then stop," a woman named 'Alice' who lives on Oliver Avenue, one of the work sites, said. "It started again."
Alice declined to have her identity published but she said she called the police after the second time she heard the equipment start because she knew the distinctive sound should not be heard at 2:30 in the morning.
It turns out some vandals got access to a Caterpiller left at the site. Spross says all the equipment is locked up at night, but there's an easy way for someone to gain access.
"All CATs have a master key," he said. "So it has to be someone who has knowledge of that master key. And has one in their possession to get in there, and start it and operate it."
Spross says it is possible for someone to hotwire the equipment, but that would leave behind signs of tampering; something he says was not there.
The company has hired a nighttime security team for the remainder of the project, and though they will most likely eat the cost this time, you could be footing the bill in the future.
Anytime this happens, a contractor's going to want to put extra money into their bids to cover the cost of replacing tools or hiring security," Spross said. "And these projects are being funded by taxpayers. So any costs we put in are going to be born by the taxpayers."
But Spross says he's concerned about more than money.
"One of the pieces of equipment that was started was in really close proximity to some power lines," he said. "And at night you can't see those, and if somebody had damaged those or knocked those down, that could have been a hazard to anyone in the equipment, anyone around that equipment."
Secret Witness is offering a reward for anyone who can help authorities catch the vandals. You can reach them at 322-4900