'You can't work for a week': Over 100 tool thefts a day, as police say it's a 'huge problem' in the industry

4 May 2023, 07:00 | Updated: 4 May 2023, 08:27

Tool thefts are a 'huge problem' for police in the UK.
Tool thefts are a 'huge problem' for police in the UK. Picture: Getty images
Henry Riley

By Henry Riley

LBC analysis has uncovered the shocking extent of tool theft across England and Wales, with over 40,000 cases in 2022. 

This accounts for at least 110 tools being stolen each day on average, according to figures from 25 of the 45 territorial police forces in the UK. 

The UK’s largest online construction community, On The Tools, has previously reported that four in five tradespeople have experienced tool theft.

This predominantly affects self-employed tradespeople, having key items stolen from their vans, garages and even homes. 

The staggering scale of the crime particularly affects London, with nearly half of all cases recorded in the capital. 

Elsewhere, Essex, West Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Gwent also reported extremely high cases last year.  

With estimates from On The Tools showing that tool theft costs the average tradesperson £4,470.50 in equipment, LBC’s analysis shows that tradespeople are potentially losing over £100 million in tools during a cost of living crisis. 

Also striking is the low-charge rate for the crime. In Derbyshire, Northumbria and West Yorkshire an estimated 2% of recorded cases result in a charge. In Merseyside and Northamptonshire it is less than 7%.  

Andy Trotter, the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, labelled LBC’s figures “devastating for tradespeople”.  

He added: “The impact is enormous, particularly when people are going through a very tough time economically. It is a huge problem for the police to deal with."

Tool theft costs the average tradesperson £4,470.50 in equipment.
Tool theft costs the average tradesperson £4,470.50 in equipment. Picture: Getty images

Responding to the low charge-rate, Mr Trotter said “it’s a symptom of remarkably low detection rates across the board… the police have been denuded resources”.

Ian, a security equipment installation engineer from east London, has had his van broken into on three occasions. He said that tool theft has had a “heart-breaking” effect.

He said: “It’s not just monetary… you can’t work for a week because you haven’t got the right tools".

As a result of the crime, Ian has had to install a "tool-safe" in his van, buy extra security locks and has fitted stainless steel panels to prevent further break-ins.

In response, a spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council told LBC: "Tool theft often affects the victim’s ability to work and we recognise how invasive and traumatic it is to have your items stolen, or have a van broken into.  

"There are complexities in tool theft cases as there are limited forensic opportunities.

"We will continue to work hard to prevent tool theft and encourage victims to report these instances to police."