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5 things we learned in Anti-Tool Theft Week

Posted: Monday, November 7th, 2022

In the 12 months since Fix Radio initially broadcast its Anti-Tool Theft Week, I would love to say things had gotten better. Or if not better, there were at least signs that things might improve in the future.

Unfortunately, there were few reasons for optimism.

Incidents of tool and van theft are on the rise. The response from law enforcement and politicians, appears to be indifference. Tool theft seems to sit below B&E and slightly above vandalism for most police forces. 

Being blunt, nobody died, no major headlines were created, and so the problem lingers at the bottom of the law and order agenda for both police and politicians.

The response by van and tool manufacturers is a mixed bag. There have been some security improvements, but it is hard to argue that any of them see combatting tool theft as a priority or improved security as a selling point, (which seems odd).

Here are some of the key takeaways from Anti-Tool Theft Week on Fix Radio.

 

1 - Tool theft is easy. It is easy to break into vans, it is easy to sell the tools online or at the local car boot sale, and a low conviction rate for tool theft indicates, it is highly unlikely that anybody will be caught or prosecuted for turning over a tradesperson’s van.

Basically nobody should be suprised that tool theft is a growing problem.

A survey by the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles released two months ago estimated that a third of van owners had been a victim of tool theft - up from 25% last year. The same survey claimed that UK tradespeople spent £4.4 billion replacing tools.

Another report, by On the Tools and Simply Business, claimed an even higher percentage of tradespeople - four out of five or 78%- had been raided by tool thieves. 

Some 59% of respondents said they had been hit in the last year alone.

The same report estimated nearly 40% of tradies had been by tool thieves twice. 

Puzzlingly, the same report said that over half of tradespeople do not have tool theft insurance.

Basically, the situation is miserable.

This is what some tradespeople had to say on the matter.

 

2 - Last year, Tory MP Greg Smith tabled a bill to force online adverts for second hand tools to include the tool serial numbers in searchable text. It wasn’t a bad idea, but ultimately, it went nowhere. Since then, there has been nothing - not even a flicker of recognition from the Houses of Parliament about the tool theft issue.

Given the UK’s state of ‘permacrisis’ things are unlikely to change in the near future.

 

3 - Police across the country have been coming under increasing pressure in the last year, as any number of scandals have come to light. Home Office figures published in August highlighted just how ineffective the police is at securing charges in burglaries and thefts.

With the police attempting to recruit 20,000 new officers, and the Tory government committed to a 20% reduction in crime, we could (perhaps) hold out hope that the cavalry is about to arrive. 

Appearing on The Clive Holland Show during Anti-Tool Theft Week, Jim Talyor, detective chief superintendent, head of Unit, OPAL, said that, “forces are going to be put under a great deal of scrutiny around our detection rates and bringing crime down.”

We will have to wait and see.

 

4 - Tool theft wouldn’t be as popular if it wasn’t so easy to break into vans. According to the OTT report, 39% of tools were taken from vans, while they sat outside their homes. 

(Only 20% reported having tools taken at work.)

Speaking on The Clive Holland Show, security expert Jeff Scott from Sussex Installations said, while security on vans had improved in the last year, he still commonly sees shocking security lapses on brand new vehicles.

As one listener suggested, van manufacturers should hire ex-thieves to point out the security flaws in their vehicles before they are released. (Even then, due to the long design and manufacturing times for vehicles it could be two years before those improvements are integrated into the production line for vans.) Still, not a bad idea.

In the meantime, DIY van security is becoming a big thing. Whether it is fitting plates to shield the lock yourself, adding shed bolts and alarms, or even putting a baby monitor into the van at night, enterprising tradespeople are increasingly doing it for themselves.

 

5 - The big question is how do we get other people to care about tool theft? Tradespeople get passionate about people nicking their tools and damaging their vans, but to get sufficient momentum we need ‘Joe Public’ to sit-up and take notice.

In the meantime, it is “down to us” as social media influencer, PB Plumber put it when he appeared during the week.

“We are on our own, and if you want to protect your tools then it is down to you to do it.

There are other companies that do things like insurance and some tool manufacturers have systems in place, but at the end of the day it is your responsibility and no-one is going to help you,” he said.

Read last year's summary here.

Here Joel Bardall get angry about tool theft here.

Listen to The Clive Holland Show podcast below.

 

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