The Federation of Master Builders has been working with police services to raise awareness among builders of the risk of theft and how to ensure you don’t become a victim.
Working with the Lincolnshire Police service, the FMB has identified the best ways to protect vehicles and tools, and this formed the basis of the organisation’s tool theft campaign, which has already featured in Professional Builder. The FMB recently went back to check in with Sally Picker, crime reduction tactical advisor for the Lincolnshire Police Service, to find out the latest in their fight against theft. Sally is – touch wood – optimistic: “It’s fair to say that we have seen a reduction in incidents.”
This is great news, but what is the secret to their success? “I suspect many things have affected our numbers. We certainly had lots of tools stolen, which raised awareness in the worst possible way, although we did do a large amount of work around promoting ways that builders could reduce the likelihood of becoming victims. We spent time speaking to builders at local merchants, we left information on all the trades desks and targeted petrol stations where a stand was put on each till with information. Everyone we spoke to had either had their van attacked or knew someone who had. Some builders had changed locks, some had alarmed their vans and others had built in cages.” In Lincolnshire, it really does seem like the best intervention is prevention.
According to research by the FMB, one in five builders bring their tools inside at night, install extra locks in the van and park against a wall to make life harder for thieves. These are all steps you can take to prevent tool theft.
In Cheshire, police are also reporting decreasing rates of van and tool theft. Superintendent Peter Crowcroft of Cheshire Police, said: “I’m pleased to say that the number of tool thefts has been decreasing recently. While this is really positive, we can’t afford to get complacent or relax security measures, and risk those figures creeping up again.” Cheshire Police have their own approach to raising awareness and tackling theft: “I spoke about van and tool theft at the FMB North business conference, and this has been just one measure in a series of interventions on this issue. Van and tool theft is a priority for the Cheshire Police force. Community officers have been frequenting builders’ merchants and DIY shops to issue advice to van and tool owners, such as parking your van in a well-lit area and within view of CCTV cameras. In addition, we’re stopping all transit vans that we spot on the roads between 0100 and 0700 hours – the window when most thefts occur. Finally, I would recommend following your local police service on social media to keep up to date on the issue.”
In the event that police recover stolen tools, builders can make sure they have the best chance of being reunited with their property by taking steps to brand and mark their tools. Research by the FMB found that 1 in 10 builders mark tools with an address, phone number or paint them with a special colour, and 7 per cent of builders register serial numbers of tools on an online database, like immobilise.com.
Detective Sergeant Shay Harper of Thames Valley Police: “I urge anyone who owns tools, whether they’re kept in a van, garage or shed, to mark them and make a note of the serial numbers. This could be just by taking a photo of them but preferably by registering them on a national database, as this helps us prove ownership when we make seizures of stolen items.”
Police services work hard to ensure that as many cases as possible are brought forward before the courts. Sally said: “A strong message needs to be sent to the thieves who commit these crimes so that they are left in no doubt that if they choose to steal tools, charges will be sought to match the emotional and financial impact that tool theft has had on their victims.”