Over half of tradespeople expect tool theft epidemic to worsen as the cost-of-living crisis continues

Levels of tool theft in the UK – a crime which already impacts 4 in 5 tradespeople – are predicted to increase as a result of the cost of living crisis, according to a new report.

As the economic squeeze continues, over half (58%) of tradespeople believe that a rise in tool theft is inevitable. Tool theft is already having a significant impact on tradespeople across the UK, with a staggering four in five (78%) being directly affected by the crime – totalling an estimated £2.8bn worth of tools stolen across the UK.

Three in five (59%) have experienced tool theft in the past year alone, compared to only 17% 1-2 years ago. With tool theft costing tradespeople an eye-watering £4,470 each on average, it is having a profound impact on construction workers across the country.

Thieves targeting tradespeople at home

Alarmingly, 39% of tradespeople reported having their tools stolen from their van whilst it was parked directly outside their home.

A further one in five (20%) say they’ve had tools stolen from their place of work. Over half (52%) did not have tool insurance at the time of taking the survey, leaving many with little choice but to take time off work while they replace their stolen equipment.

The worrying impact on mental health

The destructive nature of this crime had a clear effect on the mental health of tradespeople, with more than one in six (15%) experiencing increased anxiety, and as many as one in five saying they’re subsequently less able to trust others.

The research also revealed the level of distress can cause people to blame themselves for not ‘triple checking’ that tools were properly secured. Many even cite physical symptoms such as headaches or lack of sleep due to worrying about their tools being stolen.

James Reeve, a self-employed Midlands-based Painter & Decorator recently had his tools stolen. James commented “It’s not like going into a store of a multi-billion pound conglomerate to steal a packet of sweets – you’re stealing someone’s livelihood. It should be treated in a similar way to an assault because that’s basically what it is. You’re taking people’s belongings, which results in potentially taking food off a family’s table. You don’t know what the impact of it is going to be.”

The stolen tools market

On Tuesday 27 April 2021, a motion for leave to bring in a Bill was presented in the House of Commons. The Bill proposed a requirement for persons selling second-hand tools online to show the serial numbers of those tools in searchable advertisement text, and for connected purposes. As it stands, the Bill has not become legislation, leaving tradespeople of the UK feeling unsupported against the crime of tool theft.

Consumer awareness around the crime is high, with 71% of consumers believing that the average tradesperson has had their tools stolen once or more during the past year. Yet, according to the study, over a fifth (23%) of consumers purchased second-hand and/or refurbished tools. Out of which 19% consumers purchased without making any checks.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, commented “We’ve seen the profound impact of tool theft first-hand, costing tradespeople £4,470 on average. Those on the receiving end are often forced to take time off work, and the financial hit  and longer term repercussions on future business

“Tradespeople, like so many other business owners across the country, continue to battle rising costs, surging energy prices, and material shortages, all while continuing their recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“At the very least, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, there needs to be wider recognition of the fact that tool theft poses countless problems – impacting both finances and wellbeing.

“That’s why we’re re-launching our campaign to Stamp Out Tool Theft. We hope that by shining a light on the scale and depth of the problem, revealing the true stories of those affected, and offering practical support for the community, we can contribute positively to change.”

Lee Wilcox, CEO of On The Tools, added: “Tool theft is crippling our industry. It’s an issue that impacts an immense proportion of UK tradespeople and can no longer be ignored.

“The Tradespeople Against Tool Theft white paper was created to reveal the widespread consequences of this crime, from the financial impacts to the emotional consequences and more.

“I am hopeful that by distributing this white paper to all corners of the construction industry and beyond, we can encourage the issue to be taken as seriously as it should be, improving the situation for UK tradespeople once and for all. I would also like to thank the industry sponsors and supporters of this research for your invaluable contributions.”

Learn more about the Stamp Out Tool Theft campaign here: http://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/stamp-out-tool-theft/

Simply Business is giving away 10x van security overhauls worth up to £2,000 – find out more and enter here

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