Almost £57,000 of tools were stolen every day in 2020, according to data from the Metropolitan Police.
The 2020 total £17.5m was down 15% on the £20.7m worth of tools stolen in the capital in 2019. It might be reasonable to attribute this to Covid and the consequent reduction in activity, although the rebound in activity has seen no increase in the incidence of tool theft in London. The average cost of tool theft per month, so far in 2021, remains £1.46m – the same as in 2020.
The data, collated by London plant hire specialist Herts Tools, show there were 28,338 tool thefts reported across London between January 2019 and May 2021. That's about 32 incidents a day.
Barnet, Enfield, Ealing, Waltham Forest and Haringey are the five boroughs where figures were highest, with 1,917 thefts in Barnet accounting for nearly 15% of the total.
By contrast, Merton (475), Richmond upon Thames (439), Hammersmith and Fulham (371), Kensington & Chelsea (371) and Kingston upon Thames (327) suffered the fewest tool thefts.
It appears that thieves are 10 times more likely to steal powered hand tools than non-powered hand tools, with 32,067 taken from 2019 to 2021, compared to 2,993 non-powered hand tools. 1,942 garden tools were stolen in the same period across the capital.
Only 1% of those powered hand tools were recovered. Building materials were retrieved more often, but even they were recovered just 4% of the time.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “With eight in 10 builders reporting that they have had tools stolen before, tool theft is a serious issue for Britain’s builders. It's a shame that over a 40-year working life, a builder 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.”