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Tool theft hotspots: data reveals worrying trends for tradespeople

3-minute read

Bonny Dellow

10 May 2018

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Tradespeople across the UK are losing out on thousands of pounds, as sophisticated thieves target vans for the expensive tools inside.

Looking into our tools insurance claims data, we’ve spotted a number of worrying trends – from an overall increase in the number of thefts in the last few years, to a rise in the average value of the tools being stolen.

And it’s harming tradespeople right across the country, with major cities in the north, Midlands, and south appearing in the 10 most-targeted areas.

Thieves becoming more sophisticated

Last year, we reported on the ‘peel and steal’ tool theft technique – applying pressure to the van door with the knees, before ‘peeling’ the door down from the top – that was behind thousands of van break-ins, but it seems many thieves have upped the ante.

They’re now using electronic key fobs to break into vehicles without leaving any signs of damage. It makes the culprits harder to trace, and also makes life more difficult for tradespeople trying to protect their vehicles.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘relay’ method, as it involves two criminals, one will intercept the signal from the owner’s key fob, while the other criminal uses the bought fob to replicate the signal and open the van door.

Worryingly, the fobs used to break in this way are being sold for as little as £30 on the likes of Amazon and eBay.

Targeting higher-value tools

In another blow to tradespeople, it seems thieves have wised up to the value of various tools, and are actively targeting those that are worth more money.

We analysed over 3,000 tool theft claims and discovered that the average claim has gone up by over 15 per cent from 2016 to 2017 – with five per cent of claims over £5,000, and some claims as high as £11,000.

It points to a worrying trend that shows tool theft thieves aren’t just opportunistic, but organised, too.

The worst hit areas

From London to Leicester, criminals are targeting tools up and down the country.

A number of big cities feature in the 10 worst hit areas – including Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol, and Nottingham – but more surprisingly, Chelmsford and Tunbridge Wells also make the list.

Incredibly, more than one in 10 Simply Business tradespeople customers in Tunbridge Wells were targeted last year.

Top tool theft areas
1. London
2. Sheffield
3. Birmingham
4. Leicester
5. Chelmsford
6. Tunbridge Wells
7. Bristol
8. Nottingham
9. Northampton
10. Reading

Simply Business Tool Theft in the UK

Watch out for Mondays in July

Our data also revealed the months of the year and days of the week most prone to tool theft.

Surprisingly, it seems July is the month where thieves are at their most active, while Mondays see the biggest weekly spike in activity.

Fiona McSwein, Chief Customer Officer at Simply Business, explains:

“Tool theft is undoubtedly the number one issue affecting hard-working tradespeople across the country. Over the last year, we're handling three tool theft claims every single day. Stolen tools can be devastating – beyond the financial loss, it takes away people’s ability to carry out their work and negatively impacts customer relationships too.

“In 2016, a ‘peel and steal’ craze affected thousands across the country – now we are witnessing new and more advanced ways for thieves to target high-value items, which is a worrying trend. Electronic key fobs can be easily purchased for next to nothing online, leaving thousands of tradespeople vulnerable to theft.

“We hope that by continuing to spotlight this issue, while offering advice and protection, tradespeople can equip themselves with the necessary knowledge to prevent or limit damages from this fast-growing problem."

Prevention tips

As tool theft continues to rise, here are some things to consider:

  • Park for prevention. Try to park with sliding or rear doors against a wall or sturdy fence so that they can’t be opened. Busy, well-lit areas, preferably in view of a CCTV camera are best.
  • Store tools sensibly. It may be best to remove tools from your van overnight as ‘peel and steal’ and electronic key fobs can leave even well-secured vans vulnerable.
  • Mark your property. If your tools are stolen, having identification marks on them will help make sure you’re recognised as the owner if they’re recovered.
  • Keep a note of serial numbers and other data. Providing information like serial numbers, or at least an itemised list with the make and model of everything taken, will help police identify your tools if they’re found, as well as easing the process of making an insurance claim.
  • Check your insurance. If you don’t have tools insurance as part of your business insurance policy, consider adding it in. It can help pay for the cost of replacing your tools should they be stolen. You should also check your policy wording to find out exactly what’s covered, what the limits and excesses are, and if there are any conditions.

Are you protecting your tools?

As the UK's biggest business insurance provider, we know the importance of covering your tools. Why not take a look now and build a quick, tailored tool insurance quote?

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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