A third of all tool theft is from vehicles, new police data reveals

Victims are 10 times more likely to experience tool theft from a vehicle than from a building site, new data finds

Metropolitan Police data has revealed that tool theft from a vehicle has increased by 25% in the last year – accounting for a third of all tool thefts recorded in 2021 and 2022. 


There were 34,712 tools stolen in London alone from January 2021 to October 2022. That’s a 62% increase on the 21,445 tools stolen from January 2019 to December 2020.

Tradespeople are 10 times more likely to experience tool theft from a vehicle than they are from a building site or their place of work – with only 14% of cases leading to the suspect being identified. 

The Tool Theft in London 2022 report, collated by London telehandler hire specialists Herts Tools, come from a freedom of information request to the Metropolitan Police. The data reveals the impact of tool theft in London, the most affected industries and the types of tools that are targeted most often.

Just 0.3% of all cases (3 cases per 1000) between January 2021 and October 2022 ended in a charge for the suspect. A suspect is 20 times less likely to be charged for tool theft from a vehicle than they are for any other theft category.

Stefano Lobban, Director at Herts Tools, said:

“It’s disappointing to see that the tool theft epidemic is getting worse in London, particularly from vehicles that now often have theft deterrents in place.

“It’s not surprising to see that high-price items such as powered hand tools are still the most sought-after by thieves. Amid the ongoing cost of living crisis, the trade for secondhand (and potentially stolen) tools is booming, tempting more people into stealing tools 

“We’re urging those across all trades to double-check they have theft security measures in place, to avoid falling victim to crime.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said:

“With 8 in 10 builders reporting that they have had tools stolen before, tool theft is a serious issue for Britain’s tradespeople. It’s a shame that over a 40-year working life, tradespeople 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.”

How to prevent tool theft

  • Don’t store tools in your van overnight.
  • Get a tool safe if you have to leave any tools in your van.
  • Always lock your van’s doors during the day, to keep opportunistic thieves out.
  • Park in a busy area covered by CCTV.
  • Fit an alarm to your van.
  • Mark tools with your name and postcode.
  • Use security tags or chips to deter thieves and help recovery if something is stolen.
  • Apply brightly coloured paint to make them more identifiable and less attractive to thieves.

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About the Author: Michael O'Sullivan