More than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to do more to tackle tool theft from vans – and theft of vans themselves.
Research last autumn by the Federation of Master Builders found that just over half the UK's builders – 51 percent – had had tools stolen.
The Installer Online website for heating engineers and plumbers reported that tool theft costs a tradesperson £1,692 on average. A van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK.
Of those who had their tools stolen from vans, 46 percent had the side panel or door of the van broken, pierced, or prised open; 23 percent had their windows smashed and the doors opened from inside, and 22 percent had the locks picked.
Plumber Peter Booth started a petition last year calling on the government to look into what more it could do, whether that was new laws or tougher sentences. The petition was accompanied by the #novanber social media campaign in November.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The impact of this on smaller building firms is particularly disruptive.
“Not only is there a high cost in time and money to replace these tools, and to fix the damage, but without the right tools, firms are unable to work.”
Booth added in the introduction to his petition: “Preventative measures only go so far in deterring thieves. They must understand that stealing a livelihood carries with it commensurate penalties.”
The government's response was non-committal, however, passing responsibility back to the police and courts. The maximum jail sentence for theft is seven years’ imprisonment or three years for going equipped to steal.
Ideally, don't leave tools in your van overnight. Otherwise, park the van somewhere well lit, with CCTV if possible, or alternatively somewhere that's not visible from the road. Parking it with the back or side doors against a wall makes it harder to get into.
Make sure your van is well secured: deadlocks, alarms, a safe for your tools, and CCTV (along with signs) are all measures you can take.
Mark tools with your address or phone number, or paint them a different colour. A set of bright pink tools will not be so easy to sell on. You can also register the serial numbers of your tools on one of the online databases that police use to help them return stolen property to its owners.
Make sure you have proper insurance so that if despite your best efforts your van does get broken into, you can at least be compensated. Keep a record of everything that is in your van and keep receipts for expensive equipment, as this will help you if you need to make a claim.