Britain’s self-employed are suffering from a tool theft epidemic, according to an online petition demanding tougher sentences for offenders and better treatment of victims.
According to the petition, policy makers, police, courts and insurance companies have all failed to effectively deal with the “growing problem” of tool theft and vandalism.
A West Midlands carpenter, Lee Watts, launched the petition having been a victim of tool theft twice in the past two years. According to the Mirror, the initial raid saw Watts lose £2,500 worth of tools from a secured steel box in his van outside his home, before he lost £1,200 worth from a safe on a site he was working on.
Watts told the newspaper that he receives stories of up to five new incidents each day, but victims still failed to get the right support after a theft. “The courts don’t realise how serious it is for people in trade, they put it in the same bracket as stealing a Sat Nav from a car, but it is not a petty crime, it wrecks your life,” he said.
His petition is calling for new laws that impose a minimum two-year prison sentence for those convicted of vandalising vans and stealing tools, as well as stricter guidelines for the selling of second-hand tools.
“It takes years of hard work and a large expense to build up a tool kit and a van that enables you to earn an honest living. More and more people are being affected by this crime and it needs to be stopped,” the petition states.
It also demands immediate reimbursement for victims to allow them to continue working.
Comments left on the petition from previous victims detail the impact of tool theft on their business. While most detailed the loss of livelihood following a theft, some described the “mental torture” of worrying it may happen again, with others experiencing delays in payment from insurance companies.
At 27,000 signatures, the petition is nearing its 30,000 target. A petition requires 100,000 signatures to be considered for a debate in parliament. Tool Crime. Deserves Time was originally launched in summer 2017.
“It is an absolute plague”
Earlier this week, DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles threw his support behind the campaign.
Speaking to the Mirror, Knowles claimed magistrate and judges failed to understand the impact of tool theft on self-employed tradespeople.
He said: “No one takes it seriously. Because it’s the tools of a working man’s trade, it’s not so important. It’s an absolute plague.
“It’s a class crime and the law system, predominately upper class, doesn’t care to do enough.”
According to the findings of a Freedom of Information request, obtained from various police constabularies by Trade Direct Insurance, stolen equipment cost UK tradespeople £94,521,600 in 2016 alone.
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