Almost £57,000 of tools were stolen every day in 2020, according to data from the Metropolitan police.
Tool theft has cost tradesmen in London more than £38 million in the last two years, and £17.5 million in 2020 alone, Metropolitan Police data has revealed. As the construction and trades industries attempt to recover from lockdown bans on non-essential work, new data shows there were 28,338 tool thefts reported across London from 2019 up to May 2021.
Barnet, Enfield, Ealing, Waltham Forest and Haringey are the five boroughs where figures were highest, with thefts in Barnet (1,917) accounting for nearly 15% of the total.
By contrast, Merton (475), Richmond upon Thames (439), Hammersmith and Fulham (371), Kensington and Chelsea (371) and Kingston upon Thames (327) suffered the fewest tool thefts.
The findings, collated by London plant hire specialists Herts Tools, come from a freedom of information request to the Metropolitan Police. The data reveals the impact of tool theft on livelihoods, the cost of the crime and the most affected areas in London.
Thieves are 10 times more likely to steal powered hand tools than non-powered hand tools, with 32,067 taken from 2019 to 2021, compared to 2,993 non-powered hand tools. 1,942 garden tools were stolen in the same period.
Only 1% of those powered hand tools were recovered, underlining the need to prevent theft in the first place. Building materials were retrieved more than other items, but even they were recovered just 4% of the time.
Year on year, the cost of tool theft is falling: it dropped from £20.7 million in 2019 to £17.5 million in 2020, a decrease of 15%. However, the average cost of tool theft per month, so far in 2021, is still £1.46 million.
Stefano Lobban, Director at Herts Tools, said: “It’s been a tough couple of years for tradesmen and people working in construction, with Covid-19 really restricting their ability to work. The last thing they need is their tools being stolen, but this new data shows us just how common that reality is, particularly in London.
“Unfortunately, thieves are often attracted to high-price items like powered hand tools. Of course, when these items are stolen, it’s even harder for tradesmen to replace them due to the high cost.
“We just hope people take these new figures as a warning and make sure they’re vigilant.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “With eight in 10 builders reporting that they have had tools stolen before, tool theft is a serious issue for Britain’s builders. It’s a shame that over a 40-year working life, a builder will typically lose £10,000 and six working days to tool theft. Aside from the detrimental financial impact, tool theft causes mental health issues and stress for builders.
“Builders can protect themselves by bringing tools inside at night, adding extra locks to their van and marking tools. Installing an affordable CCTV system is a further option, as well as registering tool serial numbers on an online database. Builders should also check their insurance policies to see what they have covered.”
Steps to prevent tool theft
- Don’t store tools in your van overnight
- If you have to leave tools in your van, park in a busy area covered by CCTV
- Get an alarm, a lockable interior cabinet or interior deadbolts for your van
- Make your tools less attractive to thieves by removing brand name plates and marking them with neon spray paint
- Use stickers to tell thieves about security measures and act as a deterrent