Small Business
October 3, 2023
Crime Prevention
How to protect tradie tools from theft

How to protect tradie tools from theft

Whether on the road, at home or work, always keep your tools locked up securely in a heavy-duty toolbox that has quality keyed locks and is fixed to your vehicle.

We’re hearing from Victoria Police that thefts of tradies’ tools are on the rise. Thieves target them because they’re worth a lot of money and are easy to move around. For the year ending June 2022, 14,263 tools and 17,240 power tools worth a massive $26 million were reported stolen in Victoria.

Tool theft can be devasting for tradies, especially those operating independently or as a small business. Not only do they have to fork out thousands of dollars for replacements, but may also be unable to work for awhile, affecting their income.

That’s why it’s important to know how to protect your tools, at home, on the road and at your jobsite. Here are some simple things you can do to keep your tools safe and make it harder for thieves to steal them.

1. Lock up your tools

If you keep your tools on your ute or van, make sure they’re stored in a heavy-duty toolbox or cabinet, which is secured to your vehicle, has strong hinges and big, solid looks on the lids or doors. 

Any large equipment that cannot fit in a toolbox should be locked to your vehicle with a chain and padlock or even taken off your ute and placed inside your home or garage, if possible. 

Don’t skimp on security. Make sure your locks are strong and heavy duty. You can also put a motion-activated alarm on your toolbox, that will emit a sound when the toolbox is tampered with. Whenever you step away from your vehicle, even for a few minutes, make sure to lock up.

2. Mark and identify your tools

Clearly mark your tools with a unique identifier, such as your driver’s licence number with a “V” before it. Use an engraver or a UV pen.

You can also look at using data dots – unique identification numbers encoded on polyester substrate to form microdots that act much like DNA. 

While marking your tools might not prevent them theft, it can make them less attractive to steal as it can lower their value and make it harder for thieves to resell them. It’s also easier for police to identify your tools and return them to you if they’re stolen. 

Put a sign or sticker on your ute or toolbox saying all equipment and tools are marked.

3. Keep an inventory of your tools

Maintain a detailed inventory of all your tools – from your most expensive power tools to every drill bit, screwdriver and paintbrush. It’s amazing how quickly it can all add up. 

Take a photo of each item and include its make, model, serial number and a description. If your tools are stolen, this will come in handy to help you identify which ones have been nicked, report the theft to police and file your insurance claims.

Consider using an online inventory service such as Property Vault – you can register your tools for free, upload all the details and a photo and even mark them as stolen if they get nicked.

4. Secure your vehicle

Most tools are stolen from work utes parked in the street outside a tradies’ home at night or left unattended on a job site. 

At home, park your ute or van in a locked garage if you can. If that’s not possible, park it off the street on the driveway and install motion sensor lights and security cameras on your house and fence. 

Make sure you always keep your vehicle’s doors locked and windows shut, even if stepping away for a few minutes. And consider installing an alarm system or engine immobiliser. 

On job sites, park in well-lit, highly visible areas with lots of foot traffic.

5. Store tools out of sight

Don’t leave tools lying around a job site or visible in your vehicle. When you’re not using them, lock them away and keep them out of sight.

Use lockable storage containers, heavy-duty toolboxes and tamper-proof cabinets to store your tools, and make sure sheds and garages are secured with quality locks and bolts. 

On job sites, keep any tools you’re not using securely locked away where they can’t be seen or easily accessed. On building sites, use secure site storage options, such as storage cages, lockable containers or tool cribs.

6. Make your tools harder to resell

There’s a strong market for secondhand tools so try making your tools harder to resell by making them as unattractive as possible. 

Mark them with bright spray paint, stickers and electrical tape to put off potential buyers. Removing or covering the tool brand name and brand colours will also help devalue the item. 

If you have your tools registered on Property Vault, you can mark them as stolen if they get nicked. That way, potential buyers can then check the site to see if the tools they’re being offered are “hot” or okay.

7. Consider upgrading your tools

Many newer model professional power tools have security measures installed which allow them to be locked remotely via a smart device. Once these tools are disabled and locked, they are worthless to a thief. If you are thinking of upgrading your power tools and are worried about tool theft, this might be a good option to look into.

8. Track your tools

Consider adding small GPS trackers on your high-value tools and equipment, so you can track their live location on a linked smartphone app. These devices can increase the chances of your stolen tools being recovered. 

You could also put up signs around your job site and on your ute warning potential thieves that you have high-tech tool tracking in place.

9. Be cautious with sub-contractors

If you hire sub-contractors, or have people working with you, be wary about who you trust with your tools. Screen people carefully and keep an eye on your tools when others have access to them.

10. Stay vigilant and report suspicious behaviour

Always be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to site supervisors or the police. Keep a watch for any strangers or unauthorised people loitering around jobs sites or tradies’ vehicles. Being vigilant and proactive can help prevent theft.

Get Police Assistance

For all emergencies and immediate Police assistance
Call: 000
To report non-urgent crimes or events 24 hours a day
Call: 131 444
To report information about a crime contact Crime Stoppers on
1800 333 000

Suggested reading just for you

Discover more Small Business articles.

How to protect your small business from crime

There are simple practical things you can do prevent crime in your small business – train staff in security procedures, keep things locked up, install cameras, alarms and signs and get to know your business neighbours.
Read More

How to prevent an armed robbery and what to do if one happens

As a retail worker or business owner, it’s important to be informed and prepared when it comes to armed robbery. Your overall aim should be to ensure the offender leaves as soon as possible without harming anyone.
Read More

How to prevent retail theft and what to do if you witness it

Shoplifting is a major problem for many retail stores. Whether you’re the owner or an employee, always be alert for suspicious customers, keep an eye on your stock and work together to create a safe retail experience for everyone.
Read More

Keep up to date with our tips, news and events

Subscribe to our newsletter
Connect With Us

Neighbourhood Watch Victoria acknowledges the 38 mobs, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live, and gather as employees and volunteers. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

At Neighbourhood Watch, we believe everyone has the right to feel safe and welcome. We are committed to ensuring diversity, inclusion and equity are embedded throughout our organisation – in the work we do, the services we deliver and among our staff, volunteers, and the communities we work with.