Tool thieves

Tradesmen across the UK continue to suffer from tool thefts.

More and more stories of tradesmen having their vehicles broken into and their tools stolen are appearing on a regular basis. Using a number of different methods, thieves can make off with tens of thousands of pounds worth of stolen tools, leaving the victims unable to do their jobs or take on more work.

Vans are a particularly popular target. A tradesman with his own business will usually use their van to advertise it, making it a clear target for thieves. 

There have been a number of cases where the thieves left no sign of their break in, suggesting that they have access to new technology or master keys. Another method is the ‘peel and steel’ trick, where thieves steady themselves using their knees in order to get the leverage they need to force doors open. Most worryingly of all, thieves using this method do not require tools of their own.

In a recent survey by Simply Business, nearly ¼ of respondents said they had had one or more of their commercial vehicles broken into over the last five years. Speaking to the website, builders Spencer Hargrave and Paul Butterfield pointed out that the ‘peel and steel’ method has highlighted a structural flaw in the design of Ford sliding door vans, which thousands of tradesmen use for work.

However, it is not just Ford vans that are vulnerable. In early 2017 a Mercedes Vito was broken into while it was sitting in its owner’s driveway. The thieves broke in, grabbed the tools and made their escape in under a minute!

Local police have responded in a fairly standard fashion, warning tradesmen to keep their vans locked away or, if they lack a garage, to avoid storing their tools in their vehicles overnight. However, many tradesmen are calling for a tougher response.

Self-employed carpenter Mark Riley started a petition last year calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to start dealing out harsher punishments for tool theft, which is currently classed as petty crime. In response to advice from police, he argues that “not everyone can empty their vans at night and not everyone has insurance cover.”

“The replacement of these tools usually costs thousands of pounds and in some cases insurance companies have six weeks to settle any claims,” Riley says. “That’s six weeks financial burden to a victim of this crime.

This type of crime is classed as petty crime but a tradesman who has paid for his tools with blood, sweat and tears doesn't feel this is a petty crime. Every morning I walk out of my house wondering if today is the day that my van has been broken into.”