In the early days of September 2014 a Queensland tradesman had his $10,000 trailer along with $20,000 worth of tools stolen from outside a worksite.
According to newspaper reports, theft targeting tradies is on the rise, probably unsurprisingly given the value of equipment required on the job.
While it’s almost impossible to completely insulate yourself from theft, you can take measures that will significantly reduce your risk.
According to a 2008 report by The Australian Institute of Criminology, theft is more likely to take place during the final stages of construction and on weekdays evenings or nights.
They found thefts are more likely to occur in urban areas with raw materials and small tools the most common targets and that security measures on sites will decrease the risk.
Here are some security measures you can take:
Lock ‘em up
It might seem obvious, but keeping your tools locked securely in a storage shed, or garage is a must-do. Thieves go for easy targets, and if yours isn’t easy, they might look elsewhere. Sure, taking all your gear off site or unloading the ute or van each day is a pain, but if it saves you losing your gear, then you win.
If you must leave your tools on site, ensure the site is secured and then chuck a bloody great lock on your tool box and then chain it to something solid along with any large tools such as drop saws.
Secure your site
A badly secured site is an invitation for thieves. Ensure there are no gaps in fencing and that you have a decent padlock preferably secured to a locking plate to minimise bolt cutter leverage. Consider an alarm system, especially towards the end of builds when valuable whitegoods have been installed.
Don’t leave your tools in a trailer or vehicle
This is making it too easy for thieves. You’ve even done the hard work of removing them off site, all they need to do is steal your car or trailer and drive away. Unload your vehicle each night, or store it securely in a garage that is alarmed.
If this is not possible, install a vehicle alarm that extends to your ute’s tray or canopy as well as a trailer alarm along with a high quality trailer lock or steering wheel lock. The more deterrents the better chance your tools have of staying yours.
Engrave your gear
Engraving your name, phone number and licence number into your tools may act as a deterrent to thieves by making your tools more difficult to sell. Engrave deep and engrave well to prevent it from being sanded or grinded off too easily.
Add a toolbox alarm and tracking device
Adding a toolbox alarm and clearly marking your toolbox as being alarmed will further deter thieves from stealing your kit, while a modern and relatively small gps tracking devices will help track down your kit if it is stolen.
Do a regular inventory
It might sound boring and a waste of time but by doing an inventory and checking off your tools and equipment regularly (ideally daily) you know exactly if and when a tool goes missing. You can also note any required tools or accessories before you need them meaning you save the time of dashing out to the hardware store mid-job.
Note your tools’ serial numbers and photograph them
If your tools do get stolen, having their serial numbers and photos will help track them down, and prove they are yours if they are recovered. It’s not a big effort and could be the difference between getting your tools back or having them sitting on the shelf at a pawn shop.
File a police report
AIC research found that the average value of property stolen was $2,009 however not even half of building site thefts they surveyed were reported to police, with reporting usually taking place only on more serious incidents.
By filing a police report and supplying images and serial numbers then police are able to cross check that information with pawn brokers and if your gear turns up elsewhere you can prove it is yours. Tools do get recovered, all is not lost.
The poor guy at the start of the article who had 30k worth of gear and trailer stolen was not insured. Do not make this mistake. Get a good insurance policy with an insurer who has a reputation of paying claims (may not be the cheapest option) and make sure you read the policies fine print so you know exactly what your responsibilities are and the circumstances in which they might deny a claim.
The other steps you take such as taking an inventory, serial number and photographs should help with your claim, but there is no guarantee; read the fine print.