How to avoid tool theft

Here, Fiona McSwein, chief customer officer of Simply Business, guides us on how to avoid tool theft with better security practice.

Tool theft is on the rise and millions of pounds worth of tools are being stolen each year from vans, houses, and business premises.

We recently delved into our claims data and found an incredible 30 per cent rise in tool theft from tradespeople in 2016, with a 40 per cent rise in the value of the tools being stolen.

On face value, the figures are astonishing, but the reality of what this means for the hard working tradespeople of the UK is far, far worse.

Every day, the self-employed are left not only inconvenienced and frustrated, but quite often out of pocket at the hands of thieves.

Recent research has revealed that tradespeople work longer hours than almost any other profession, while 90 per cent have gone to work while injured or ill. To be stopped in their tracks by criminals must be incredibly demoralising, and even worse, could end up deterring people from going self-employed altogether.

Make no mistake, this surge in tool theft affects the whole country – the second we allow the self-employed to be discouraged, we’ll be losing a huge driving force in the UK’s economic growth.

Insuring over 400,000 small businesses and landlords means this is a topic we pay close attention to at Simply Business. We’ve put together some important bits of advice to help you avoid tool theft where possible.

Remove tools from your van wherever possible

Van break-ins are increasingly common, with thieves devising new techniques – like the latest one, ‘peel and steal’ – to access vehicles and take what’s inside.

Criminals are also putting in a lot of effort to research the weak points of certain vans, and targeting them accordingly.

Where possible, try and store your tools elsewhere, especially overnight. Adding signage to your vehicle explaining that no tools are left in there overnight can also be a useful preventative measure.

Make life difficult for thieves

However, storing tools away from your vehicle can be impractical and sometimes impossible.

If your tools are heavy and difficult to move, or you simply don’t have the space elsewhere, there are things you can keep in mind to make theft from your vehicle more difficult.

First and foremost, you should always make sure that you have the necessary security in place on your van. This means properly locked doors and windows, and a fully functioning alarm. When storing a fair amount of tools in your vehicle, many insurers will require a Category 5 Thatcham Alarm fitted installed by a regulator.

How and where you park your van can also make a difference. During the day when you’re out and about, try to park in a busy area, in CCTV view if possible. It’s also an idea to try and park with your side or rear doors close to a wall so that access is difficult.

When it comes to parking overnight, you should also try and make it difficult to access the side and rear doors, while it goes without saying that all tools should be kept out of sight.

Mark your tools

One way to deter thieves is to visibly mark your tools, either with permanent marker, nail polish, or by engraving them. Thieves will often look to sell the tools they’ve stolen online or at car boot sales, and this reduces their chances of finding a buyer. It’s also possible that you, or someone you know, could come across them and track them down.

You can also use an ultraviolet pen which will help the police identify the tools as yours, and will reduce the risk of the thieves removing your mark. Another way you can help the police identify your stolen tools is by registering them for free on the Immobilise register.

Consider tools insurance

Ideally, you’ll prevent any theft before it occurs, but this isn’t always possible. As thieves get more sophisticated and tools become more valuable, there’s every chance that your van (or premises) will fall victim to someone on the lookout for expensive equipment.

That’s where tools insurance can help. Tool cover can compensate you if your equipment is stolen (or indeed lost or damaged), and can act as a good fail-safe if the worst should happen. You can usually combine it alongside your other insurance covers, such as public liability insurance.

Given that many tradespeople find it difficult to carry on working if their tools are stolen, it can help get you back on track.

Judging by the trend, the levels of tool theft could continue to rise for a while yet. Vigilance and a bit of common sense can go a long way, and the more we can all support the victims of tool theft, the better.

It’s a growing problem affecting the self-employed throughout the whole of the UK, and we’re all responsible for combatting it. If you suspect you’ve seen stolen tools, or witnessed suspicious activity, you should report it as soon as possible. You could be protecting someone’s livelihood.

You should always speak to your insurer if you’re unsure on the terms of your policy, as some providers may have specific requirements for covering your tools.

Fiona McSwein is chief customer officer of Simply Business.

Further reading on tool theft

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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