Sunday 24 September 2017

Tool theft victims say gangs are 'ruining' their livelihoods - 'These gangsters are targeting hard-working people'

  • Tradesmen being left 'thousands of euro' out of pocket
  • Sources say organised crime gangs behind 'majority of thefts'
  • One roofer bought his stolen tools back at a car boot sale
  • Locksmith says he's created three full-time positions due to the 'amount of tools being stolen'
  • 'Crimewave of epidemic proportions' - security expert
Tools seized by gardai in the last five months (left) and a van which was damaged by thieves (right) Photos: An Garda Siochana and Locktec Locksmiths
Tools seized by gardai in the last five months (left) and a van which was damaged by thieves (right) Photos: An Garda Siochana and Locktec Locksmiths
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Tools worth thousands of euro are being stolen on a "daily basis" and tradesmen are having to heavily invest in security to try and protect their property.

Independent.ie spoke to electricians, carpenters and roofers who have had their tools stolen in a number of Dublin areas over the past year.

Jack O'Brien, director of Town & Country Builders, said these "organised" thefts are also having a serious impact on the construction industry.

"Tools are being stolen to order and tradespeople cannot claim on their insurance for fear that their premiums will rise sharply," he told Independent.ie.

One self-employed roofer, based in Ballymun, told how equipment worth over €4,000 was taken from his van while he worked. He received a tip-off that the tools would be on sale at a car boot sale in the north Dublin area and bought them back for €1,500 the following weekend.

"I would have had to pay €4,000 to replace them anyway, so I just bought them back. It's ridiculous what is going on and there's not much we can do as these people know where you live. It's not worth the risk to do or say anything," he told Independent.ie.

Gavin Skelly works as a carpenter and had around €2,000 worth of equipment stolen from his van which was parked outside his Tallaght home.

The incident happened on July 25 and was reported to gardai, but the tools haven't been located. A garda spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.

"I was asleep in the front room of my house and me and my wife didn't hear a thing. I got a call from one of the neighbours and came out and all my tools were gone," Gavin told Independent.ie.

"These gangsters are targeting hard-working people and ruining livelihoods. It’s the kind of thing where people just replace them and get on with it as they're too scared to do anything. I got all the locks upgraded on my van and I got an alarm in. You pay for a top of the range van and then the locks are made of chocolate...These people are highly organised and know what they're doing when they're breaking in."

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Tradesmen regularly use Facebook to try and recover their stolen tools

Another man, who asked to remain anonymous, said a group of thieves stole tools worth around €3,000 from his car and also took a Manchester United jersey he bought for his son.

"I rang the shop to see if anyone tried to exchange it and within an hour four lads were in trying to exchange the jersey," he said.

"The tools [and jersey] were stolen at the beginning of June. They took a cordless drill, a grinder and a big bag of mixed tools. My neighbour has CCTV footage that shows three men breaking into the car. They were my boss' tools and I haven't been back to work since."

Michael Hunt, owner of Locktec Locksmiths in Westpoint Business Park, said he has created three full-time positions this year due to the "amount of tools being stolen."

"On average, we are fitting anything from 40 to 50 vans a week," he said.

"It is absolutely rampant. Just this morning I had four lads come into me who had their tools taken. It has always happened but lately it's just gotten crazy. More people are back working and these people are back robbing tools worse than ever."

He said the damage done to the vehicles is often so minimal that people don't know their tools are taken until they actually get into the van.

"We install safer locks but there's not much you can do if they come along and cut a hole in the side of your van," he said.

"The people who are buying these tools at car boot sales or whatever, and who aren't even questioning where they came from, are just as bad if you ask me."

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A van after tools were stolen from inside. However, locksmiths say damage is usually 'minimal' as 'these people know what they're doing' Photo: Locktec Locksmiths

Organised

A number of major tool seizures have been made by gardai in the past five months.

Tools worth around €26,000 were found during a checkpoint on Stockhole Lane, Cloughran, Co Dublin in May.

It is believed that some of the tools may have been taken in the UK and the North.

"The gangs in the UK are a different breed, but I think we're seeing gangs here getting far more brazen. These thefts are organised and planned and often they target one particular area each night," a senior source said.

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Some of the tools seized by gardai at the checkpoint in Cloughran. Gardai in Ballymun are appealing for the owners to get in touch

Industrial power tools worth an estimated €50,000 were seized at Dublin Port in April. The tools were allegedly stolen in the UK and destined to be sold on the black market here.

"A number of separate injured parties have been identified for a substantial quantity of the tools seized," a garda spokeswoman said.

Investigations are ongoing in conjunction with the UK authorities to identify all the owners of the property seized.

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Stolen industrial power tools and gardening machinery were seized estimated at upward of €50,000. Photograph: An Garda Síochána

Increase in thefts

While data on the amount of tools reported stolen in recent years is not available, security experts say there has been a "definite increase" in burglaries and thefts.

John Kinsella, managing director of Accura Security Products Limited, said Ireland is suffering a "crimewave of epidemic proportions."

"You just have to look at Facebook or LinkedIn on a daily basis and you will see that theft of tools from vehicles and on sites is a really serious matter and it’s happening constantly," he told Independent.ie.

"Most trades people need to have branded vehicles which look great and really enhance their brand, however this is also a double edged sword. Whilst showing people what you do sometimes you are showing the criminal what you have."

Mr Kinsella offered the following security advice:

  • Avoid vehicles with glass at the back doors and ensure that your vehicle has a fixed metal partition between the driver and cargo area.
  • If you are attending a site or premises to carry out work be mindful to check on the vehicle on a regular but not routine basis.
  • Install a vehicle CCTV system/alarm internally which can report intrusion directly to your smartphone.
  • When on Facebook stop telling everyone where you are if you are a target, think practical.
  • When your commercial vehicle is parked at home etc. ensure that rear and side doors are visible to you from within the house.
  • In the event of an intrusion/ attempt on your vehicle DO NOT attempt to tackle the criminals, call the Gardaí and make plenty of noise and turn on lights and set off your intruder alarm.
  • Consider a monitored solution, whilst expensive please note that monitoring stations never sleep.
  • Photograph and mark all tools with your own particular codes and keep a note of this for future reference or for Gardaí.

If you have had your tools stolen and want to share your story, get in touch contact@independent.ie

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