The increase in tool theft is driving the adoption of advanced security systems

A wave of tool theft spurs hi-tech security systems
A wave of tool theft spurs hi-tech security systems

A carpenter, who goes by the name Derek (not his real name) and lives in the Midlands, rushed downstairs and out to his front garden as he heard the thieves making their getaway into the night.

Once, criminals robbed him in broad daylight while he was unloading his van at a job. He recalls that they even threatened to come back and harm his family if he called the police on them.

“You don’t sleep then for the next couple of days, you’re panicking about them coming back again,” he says. Last autumn’s burglary in the middle of the night felt like the last straw for Derek. He estimated that the value of the stolen tools was around £7,000. Despair hit him, and he wondered if it was even worth continuing with carpentry, the job he had been doing since he left school.

Tool theft is a surprisingly common crime in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Direct Line, an insurance company, reports that a tradesperson has a tool stolen every 17 minutes. The impact on those affected is much more than just an inconvenience, as insurance claims can be complicated and time-consuming, and it can also have negative effects on their mental health.

However, there are technological solutions available to help prevent tool theft or at least reduce the impact if it happens. ARMD is a company that specializes in anti-tool theft technology and insurance. Founders Devin Chawda and Stephen Holland initially developed a security camera for a trade show, but after receiving numerous inquiries from builders and electricians, they founded ARMD.

Their anti-theft system consists of a small motion sensor and location tracker that can be installed inside commercial vehicles. If a break-in occurs, the system instantly alerts the owner, who can take action, record the incident, and alert the police.

The system connects to a mobile network through a separate hub that contains a SIM card, which can be concealed in the front of the vehicle. If the hub is unplugged, the system triggers an automated phone call to alert the owner.

However, according to Mr Holland, the technology alone may not be sufficient.

“Our mission became to get them back to work,” he explains, as he discusses how ARMD launched an insurance product tailored specifically to tradespeople in late 2021.

The coverage is linked to a unique smartphone app that is a digital inventory of every valuable tool that a plumber or builder may have. The app displays the insurance claim value of each tool, which starts at 100% of its retail value for a new tool and decreases by 10% each year, down to a minimum of 50%, according to Mr Chawda.

ARMD aims to pay out genuine claims as quickly as possible, which is crucial. The company currently has over 3,500 users, over 200 of whom have signed up for tool insurance, and has settled a total of 7 claims. The longest claim settlement time was just three days.

There are other technologies available to help combat the effects of tool theft. For example, a smartphone tool inventory app called The Tool Register was listed in a House of Commons Library research briefing on tool theft last year. uWatch, which produces The Cube, a security device equipped with a camera, motion sensors, and location sensors, also offers the app. According to a uWatch spokesperson, the app has roughly 500 users.

“Some tradespeople are even placing cages inside their vehicles,” notes Darren Crannis, Technical Manager at the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), which represents 3,000 member companies covering over 66,000 individual tradespeople.

Tradespeople may also choose to install hidden cameras in their vans, apply forensic marking products like microdots to their tools, and label them as protected. Additionally, there is a range of heavy-duty locks, vaults, and alarm systems available to secure equipment, whether it is kept in a van or a shed.


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