Close-up of hands holding a tool to break into the lock of a van

Tool theft reported every 12 minutes

Theft of tools was reported to police every 12 minutes in 2023 – up 5% on the previous year – according to research from Direct Line business insurance.

Last year saw 24,543 reports of theft from a vehicle, up 14 per cent from the previous year, and accounting for more than half (55%) of all tool thefts in 2023. The new figures come even though 94 per cent of tradespeople are taking extra precautions to secure their tools, spending an average £626 on fitting their vans with additional security including additional locks, drill plates, trackers and alarms.

More than half of tool thefts from a vehicle are at night, most commonly occurring while the vehicle is parked overnight at the tradesperson’s home or in a car park.

As well as the cost of replacing tools, 83 per cent say they lost business because of the theft and not having their tools to work. Tradespeople reported losing work worth an average £1,836 the last time their tools were stolen.

Tool theft is seasonal, according to the Direct Line business insurance data. It typically peaks after the clocks go back in October, with 4,517 thefts in that month last year, and usually hits a low in April when the clocks go forward. The same pattern applies to tool theft from vans, with a peak of 2,511 in October 2023 compared with 1,632 in April.

Dr Kate Tudor, a criminologist and Associate Professor at the University of Durham, says: “Those involved in tool theft are increasingly organised and sophisticated in their criminality, and they continued to be involved because of the significant financial rewards they generate. I hope this research can help support conversations around what can be done to prevent tool theft in the first instance, but also how protection might be afforded to tradespeople by closing down opportunities for the sale of stolen goods.”

Jonny McHugh, head of Small Business Insurance at Direct Line, says: “It’s alarming to see that tool theft has risen yet again. Despite tradespeople taking numerous precautions and investing in additional van security to protect their tools, brazen thieves are continuing to target them.

“Tradespeople rely on their tools for their livelihoods, meaning this can have a massive financial impact if they are taken. Replacing tools is costly, takes time and vans will often need to undergo substantial repairs following a break-in, meaning tradespeople are off the road and unable to work.

“The rise in these thefts means that it’s more important than ever that tradespeople take precautions to help keep their tools safe and deter thieves, as well as making sure they have the correct insurance to help deal with the consequences if a theft does occur.”

You can find out more about Direct Line’s tradesperson tools cover here.

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