The Best Ways to Protect Yourself Against Tool Theft
Wherever you are in the world, tool theft is a costly issue for electricians – and that includes electricians in the UK! Tool theft may sound minor, but it leads to significant financial losses, stress, and disruptions to work. Here, the UK’s best electrician training team at Trade Skills 4 U looks at the increasing problem of tool theft and give you a guide to the best ways to safeguard tools, reduce losses, prevent theft, and maintain your business.
Tool Theft is on the Rise in the UK – And Globally
Tool theft remains a concerning issue for electricians, not only in the United Kingdom but also in many other parts of the world. News reports frequently highlight this problem, underscoring the importance of addressing it effectively.
Those who have experienced tool theft know that it is not just about the financial impact, but also the emotional stress that accompanies it. Losing tools can cost victims hundreds or even thousands of pounds in terms of both the tools themselves and related expenses. These expenses may include replacing tools, stock, and even repairing damaged vans. In the USA in April, an electrician’s toolbox was stolen from outside a Good Samaritan hospital, costing him over £1,200! In the UK, it’s estimated that 51% of electricians have had tools stolen from their vans. Interestingly, it’s as winter draw in that tool theft rises:
- Tool theft incidents reach their peak in November, as the clocks change.
- November experiences a 34 percent increase in tool theft compared to April, the month immediately following the change to British Summer Time
- Tool theft from vehicles sees a 20 percent surge during the darker winter months
Not only is tool theft a big problem, but it’s also much more likely to happen to people’s vehicles than at construction sites. The Metropolitan Police shared some alarming numbers – tool theft from vehicles has gone up by 25% in the past year and now accounts for one-third of all tool thefts in 2021 and 2022.
If we focus on London, things look even worse. From January 2021 to October 2022, a shocking 34,712 tools were stolen. To put it in perspective, this is 62% more than the 21,445 tools stolen from January 2019 to December 2020. These numbers make it clear that something needs to be done to tackle this growing issue.
Furthermore, electricians should be aware that thieves are not always content with a single theft. It’s common for them to return to the scene of the crime months later, anticipating that the tools have been replaced with new ones.
Why it’s Important to Get Tool Insurance
While insurance provides some financial relief, it does not eliminate the inconvenience and downtime associated with tool theft. It’s not just the cost of replacing tools; it’s also the potential loss of revenue due to delays in completing work. Electricians need a comprehensive strategy to tackle tool theft, combining both preventive measures and tools for recovery.
The Best Ways to Secure Your Tools
While the ideal approach is to remove tools from your van overnight, practicality can be a significant concern. If you lack a secure storage option, leaving your tools in the van becomes a necessity. So, how can you protect your tools from theft?
- Photograph Your Tools
One of the initial steps is to photograph your tools. This simple but effective measure can prove invaluable if your tools are ever recovered by the police. Having clear images of your tools, including serial numbers, can aid law enforcement in identifying and returning stolen property.
- Personalise Your Tools
Thieves are less likely to steal personalised tools. Consider etching your name on them or using bright-coloured paint to make them easily identifiable. Not only does this deter theft, but it can also facilitate the recovery process if your tools are stolen and subsequently found.
- Record Serial Numbers
Keep a comprehensive record of your tools, including their serial numbers and other essential data. This information can be essential for law enforcement when identifying stolen tools.
- Use Stickers and Signs
Advertising that your tools are marked can be a powerful deterrent to potential thieves. Stickers and signs on your van or tools can signal that the items are traceable, making them less attractive targets.
Advanced Protection for Electrician Tools
In addition to basic marking, several advanced methods and tools can help protect your equipment:
- SelectaDNA Tools and Equipment Kit
This kit contains a unique DNA code. Each item you mark with SelectaDNA contains microdots with this code. In the unfortunate event of theft, these codes allow the police to identify stolen property and link criminals to the crime. The SelectaDNA Tools and Equipment Kit includes a bottle of microdots, laminated warning labels, DNA marking stickers, UV keyring light, and lifetime registration on the Secure Asset Register. It retails for approximately £50.
- Alpha Dot Pack
Alpha Dots offer an anti-theft system using tiny microdots, each approximately 1mm in diameter, printed with a unique PIN (Personal Identification Number) registered to you. These dots come in a glue-filled applicator and can be easily applied to your tools. Once in place, the glue is nearly impossible to remove. Your marked items are registered for free on the TRACELINE national database, simplifying the identification of the owner of any recovered stolen property. This pack usually retails for around £30.
- Smart Water
Smart Water provides a kit for tradespeople containing forensic fluid, tamper-proof stickers, and van stickers. The forensic fluid glows green under UV light, making it a great way to identify your tools. The kit, priced at £73, offers effective protection for your valuable equipment.
Protect Your Electrical Tools with Van Security
Ensuring the security of your van is essential. Relying solely on factory-fitted van locks may not provide adequate protection for your livelihood. Enhancing your van’s security can substantially reduce the risk of theft.
- Van SlamLock
Van SlamLocks automatically lock the van door when it is shut, requiring no key for locking. This feature provides maximum security against opportunistic theft from an unlocked van, eliminating the possibility of theft due to driver error. Additionally, the van Slamlock can be used alongside van deadlocks on the same key and includes anti-pick features for added security.
- Arma Plate
Arma Plates are highly effective for repairing damage caused by thieves and preventing future theft. This system comprises two plates: a stainless steel plate that protects the vulnerable area around the lock or handle, and an internal plate with locking nuts. It is suitable for most vans.
If your van has been vandalised, and the handles have either been broken or removed, the SlamPlate van lock is an excellent choice for securing your van from further unauthorised access. The lock is constructed from a steel plate coated in a black powder coat or stainless steel, providing a superior level of van lock security. The SlamPlate van security lock is door-specific and is available for various van models.
Prevention is Better Than a Cure
Most thieves are opportunists looking for easy targets. However, they can be deterred, so the goal should be to make it as difficult as possible for them to steal your tools and equipment.
Practical Theft Prevention Tips for Electricians
The following measures can help electricians prevent tool theft and safeguard their valuable equipment:
- Empty Your Van
While your insurance policy may cover your tools when left in your van overnight, it’s still wise to bring all your heavy-duty tools inside every evening if you can. An empty van is a strong deterrent for thieves.
- Inventory List
A comprehensive inventory list of all the tools and equipment kept in your van, along with photographs of each item, helps you keep track of your stock and quickly spot theft. This documentation also facilitates the insurance claim process, should theft occur.
- UV Pens
Marking all your tools and high-value items with your name or your business’s name using UV ink is an effective way to deter theft. Additionally, if your tools are found by the police or offered for sale, these UV markings can aid in their recovery.
- Speak to Staff
Devote an afternoon to discuss best practices in van and tool safety and security with your team. Additionally, ensure that new staff members are informed about these measures to maintain a vigilant and secure work environment.
- Park Safely
When you don’t have the option of parking in a secure location, prioritise well-lit areas, especially those equipped with CCTV. Areas that are well-illuminated and have active security measures are more likely to deter thieves.
- Protect Your Catalytic Converter
Electricians should be aware that thieves often target catalytic converters in vans, as they are relatively easy to access. Consider investing in an anti-theft device designed to protect your catalytic converter.
- Remove Batteries and Charger
Thieves are less likely to target tools that don’t include their batteries and chargers. By engraving your tools with identifying information and removing these components, you decrease the desirability of the tools for thieves.
Innovative Solutions for Tool Theft Prevention
Modern technology and innovative tools can offer additional layers of security and tracking for your tools.
- Lockable Power Tools with Apps
Investing in power tools equipped with locking features that can be disabled through a smartphone app provides added security. Locked tools are essentially worthless to thieves. Furthermore, it’s important to communicate this fact by posting warnings on your work truck and trailer, indicating that all your tools are disabled.
- Add Interior Deadbolts to Your Work Truck
Factory door lock cylinders are attached to the door sheet metal with a spring clip, which can be easily removed by novice thieves. Interior sliding deadbolts are more challenging to defeat. These can be manually or electrically operated, and the electric versions can connect to your vehicle’s remote keyless entry system, allowing you to lock and unlock the deadbolts with the push of a button on your key fob.
- Install a Van Alarm System
According to contractingbusiness.com, “an estimated 90% of work truck break-ins and power tool thefts take place between 6 p.m. on Friday and 6 a.m. on Monday.” Since it’s impossible to keep a constant watch over your work truck, protecting it with an alarm system is crucial. Alarm systems can be obtained for less than $100, but higher-end models, costing around $400, provide enhanced security. These systems often offer two-way communication, confirming that the system is armed, and they can send alerts to your smartphone if the doors are opened. Some systems include sensing modules that detect glass breakage or report if someone tries to jack up the vehicle to remove expensive components or access it from below.
- Track Them Down
High-value tools can be tracked via GPS. You can attach a GPS tracker like Tile to your tools or toolbox, allowing you to locate them if they are stolen. Many modern tools also come equipped with GPS tracking devices, which can be incredibly valuable when you need to recover your stolen tools.
- Connect Your Apps
Many modern tradespeople are using smartphones to keep track of their tools and equipment. Apps like Toolwatch are available to help generate insurance claims and police reports, streamlining the process and allowing you to get back to work faster.
Preventing tool theft is an essential concern for electricians. By adopting a combination of proactive measures, marking tools, enhancing van security, and investing in modern technology, you can protect your livelihood and minimise losses. Insurance, records, and smartphone apps also play vital roles in recovery efforts. Keep your tools secure, and you’ll ensure business continuity and peace of mind. Remember, it’s far more cost-effective to invest in prevention than dealing with the aftermath of a theft.
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