The analysis is based on Freedom of Information request sent to 45 police forces in the United Kingdom and NI in January 2024. Two-thirds of forces provided tool theft data.

Last year saw 24,543 reports of tool theft from a vehicle, up 14% from the previous year, accounting for over half (55%) of all tool thefts in 2023. This comes even though 94% of 756 tradespeople surveyed by Direct Line business insurance are taking extra precautions to secure their tools, with tradespeople spending on average £626 retrofitting their vans with additional security, including additional locks, drill plates, trackers and alarms. 

Over half (56%) of tool thefts from a vehicle occur at night, with thefts most commonly occurring while the vehicle is parked overnight at the tradesperson's home or in a car park. 

Tool theft has a massive financial impact on tradespeople. As well as the cost of replacing tools, 83% say they lost business because of the theft and not having their tools to work. Tradespeople reported losing work worth an average £1,836 the last time their tools were stolen, meaning an estimated £82 million worth of jobs were lost by trades in 2023.

London’s Metropolitan Police accounted for over half (54%) of all tool theft, but when the size of the local population is assessed, Cleveland police had more tool thefts per resident than London.

Police forces with the highest levels of tool theft per resident in 2023:

Ranking Tool theft overall Tool theft from a vehicle
1 Cleveland Police Cleveland Police
2 Metropolitan Police Metropolitan Police
3 West Yorkshire Police Hertfordshire Constabulary
4 Hertfordshire Constabulary Leicestershire Constabulary
5 West Midlands Police Bedfordshire Police
6 Northumbria Police Essex Police
7 Bedfordshire Police Northumbria Police
8 Leicestershire Constabulary West Yorkshire Police
9 South Yorkshire Police Derbyshire Constabulary
10 Northamptonshire Police Kent Police


Tool theft according to the data is seasonal, typically peaking after the clocks go back in October, with 4,517 thefts in this month last year, usually hitting a low in April when the clocks move forward. The same pattern is visible for tool theft from vans, with a peak of 2,511 in October 2023, compared with 1,632 in April.

Dr Kate Tudor, Criminalist and Associate professor at the University of Durham, said: “Tool theft is a huge issue, both in terms of the frequency with which it occurs, and because of the devastating impact it has on those affected by it. Those involved in tool theft are increasingly organised and sophisticated in their criminality, and they continued to be involved because of the significant financial rewards they generate.

"I therefore hope this research can help support conversations around what can be done to prevent tool theft in the first instance, but also how protection might be afforded to tradespeople by closing down opportunities for the sale of stolen goods.”

Jonny McHugh, Head of Small Business Insurance at Direct Line, said: “It’s alarming to see that tool theft has risen yet again. Despite tradespeople taking numerous precautions and investing in additional van security to protect their tools, brazen thieves are continuing to target them.

“Tradespeople rely on their tools for their livelihoods, meaning this can have a massive financial impact if they are taken. Replacing tools is costly, takes time and vans will often need to undergo substantial repairs following a break in, meaning tradespeople are off the road and unable to work. The rise in these thefts means that it’s more important than ever that tradespeople take precautions to help keep their tools safe and deter thieves, as well as making sure they have the correct insurance to help deal with the consequences if a theft does occur.”