Tool theft at crisis point – one region breaches £800,000 of stolen gear in just one year

From Dumfries and Galloway to Somerset, Greater London to West Yorkshire, it seems no region of the UK is free from tool theft.

Read some of the latest reports on the epidemic that continues to wreak havoc on the lives of hard-working tradespeople – including one case where the victim even had his lunch box stolen.

Plus, we’ve got police advice on how to safeguard your business.

Yorkshire

West Yorkshire has seen the number of van thefts more than double in the past year, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

An eye-watering £836,053 worth of tools was stolen in the region in the 12 months between April 2018 and March 2019. October 2018 is reported to have been the worst month in that time frame, during which £110,000 worth of tools and 89 vans were stolen.

Speaking at that time, Brian Berry of the Federation of Master Builders said: “More than half of builders in the UK have fallen foul of tool theft with concerns growing over a crime wave wreaking havoc across the construction industry.

“Tools are being stolen from vans and direct from construction sites, with some builders even being assaulted by would-be thieves.”

Mr Berry offered the following advice: “Where possible, builders should bring tools inside at night. If that’s not possible, install extra locks or safes in the van and park against a wall or in a secluded location not visible from the road.”

He went on to add: “Installing an affordable CCTV system is one option but builders should also ensure they overtly brand their items with company details. They should also register their tool serial numbers on an online database.”

Greater London

Earlier this week the Henley Standard reported that a tradesman from Sonning Common fell foul of tool thieves who cleaned him out of all his tools. They left him more than £10,000 out of pocket – and even stole his lunch box.

Victim Matthew Martin said: “This is the biggest kick in the teeth in a long time. They’d taken all of my cordless stuff and even my lunchbox, which I really couldn’t believe. It is absolutely devastating and I’m having to beg and borrow whatever is available to get by.

He added: “They’ve taken some hand tools that my grandfather gave me when he retired and you can’t put a price on that.

“My mum bought me a new drill and circular saw but that’s all she can afford. A good friend has offered to lend me money but, of course, I’d still have to pay them back so it’s far from ideal.

“There should really be harsher punishments for people who do this because they ruin people’s livelihoods. They might as well have stolen food from my kids’ mouths.

“The worst thing is, those tools meant the world to me and the thieves have no idea of their value. You start out with cheaper tools and buy better ones over time and they’re a sign of the pride you take in your work. Now they’ll probably just get sold down the pub for £20.”

Mr Martin had a word of caution for other tradespeople: “It’s so easy to get into a false sense of security because you never think it’s going to happen to you.”

Somerset

Last month the Somerset Gazette reported that there have been 334 thefts of tools and machinery from vehicles in the county in the past five years. Despite the number of incidents, which add up to £150,000 worth of stolen equipment, there have only been two arrests.

Wiltshire

Wiltshire hasn’t escaped the tool theft epidemic either, as reported by local radio station Spire FM. This time the story is one of four vans targeted in a 48-hour window.

Wiltshire Police have the following advice for tradespeople who fall victim to tool thieves:

  1. Keep your vehicle locked with the windows shut and your keys secure
  2. Park in a well-lit area, in clear view of your property and any CCTV cameras
  3. Lock away valuables like wallets, phones and sat navs
  4. Consider fitting a tool safe, and secure it with good quality locks
  5. Park your van close to a building or hedge to restrict access
  6. Remove all your tools from your van overnight
  7. Take photos of valuable items, making a note of the serial numbers, and consider registering them on immobilise.com
  8. Consider fitting a Secured by Design-accredited alarm
  9. Mark your tools using an artificial DNA property marker, like Smartwater or SelectaDNA
  10. Call 999 immediately if you see a crime in progress or any suspicious activity around trade vans, noting all vehicle registration numbers and descriptions of those involved

No corner of the UK secure from tool theft

Tool theft isn’t just happening in one or two areas of the UK. It’s blighting small business owners up and down the country.

Pick up any local paper and there’s a high chance you’ll find a story about tool theft in there. Other recent reports of this business-wrecking crime have come from as far afield as Dumfries and Galloway, Devizes and the Severn Vale.

For tips on what you can do to prevent tool theft, and how to claim on your tools insurance if the worst happens, read our quick guide on what to do if you fall victim to tool thieves.

Can you relate to tradesman Matthew Martin’s story mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.

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