Rapid rise in power tool thefts screwing over tradies

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

Tradies have been urged to nail their equipment storage security after a rapid rise in tool theft over the last year.

Recently released data from The Crime Statistics Agency has reported that over $33 million worth of hand and power tools were stolen from Victorian tradies in 2023, a 37 per cent jump.

18,626 power tools and 14,911 hand tools were stolen across the state last year, representing an increase of 12 per cent in the total number of stolen items.

Due to their high value and portability, trade tools are a prime target for thieves, posing a considerable risk to contractors, construction crews, and tradies.

The stolen goods are often quickly resold using Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, or secondhand retail stores.

Tool theft can not only do a demolition job on a tradie’s bank balance as they purchase urgent replacements but also halt their ability to work – costing thousands more in additional lost earnings.

The spike in thefts has left RACV urging tradies to check the security of their vehicles and properties to bring down stolen tool numbers.

“Thieves typically look for easy targets, so visibly securing and locking away your tools can deter them from attempting a theft,” RACV General Manager Bill Bloodworth said.

“Securing your vehicle is equally crucial to prevent it from being stolen, potentially along with any tools inside…if you can, park your work vehicle, such as a ute or truck, in a secured garage.”

“To secure your tools in a vehicle, use a robust truck bed or a lockable toolbox, anchored to the vehicle with a strong security chain if portable,” he said.

“To reduce the chance of theft, always ensure your tools are not left visible in your vehicle. This recommendation extends to equipment stored on the roof, such as ladders, which should ideally be kept inside your home or garage at night.”

Build-it’s top ten tips to flip off tool thieves:

  1. Don’t leave expensive tools and equipment in your vehicle or at worksites overnight.
  2. Keep your vehicle doors, windows and storage locked, even when working on-site.
  3. Invest in a lockable storage box.
  4. Don’t leave anything of value visible inside your vehicle.
  5. Don’t hide spare keys inside or underneath your vehicle.
  6. Remove any documents from your vehicle which reveal where you live.
  7. Engrave or mark your tools with your driver’s licence number.
  8. Photograph and record details of expensive tools or equipment.
  9. Install CCTV facing where your vehicle is parked.
  10. Install door and tray alarm systems.

How to boost stolen tools’ chance of recovery:

However, Mr Bloodworth says there’s also plenty tradies can do to help boost the chance of recovering their tools should they be stolen, such as using tracking devices, marking equipment and purchasing insurance.

“Marking your tools with your identification details, such as your name and driver’s license number, makes them difficult for thieves to sell, easier for you to report as missing, and increases the likelihood of recovery by police,” he said.

“To facilitate the recovery of stolen items by police and the insurance claims process, maintain a detailed inventory of your tools, including make, model and serial numbers, and accurately declare their value. Photographs of your tools can also aid in their recovery.”

The spike in tool thefts has also led Victoria Police to update their Secure Your Tools guidance page last month, advising tradies on keeping tools safe and what to do if their items are stolen.

“Do not confront the thief; your safety is more important than your possessions. Do not touch anything, call your insurance company,” they state.

“To report a crime in progress, or for immediate police attendance, call Triple Zero for non-emergencies, call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or report online.” 

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.