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How much theft is costing the landscaping industry

Theft is rife in landscaping, with expensive tools and equipment targeted for their resale value and lack of traceability. This year has seen a sharp increase in tool theft, with a reported rise of over 30% in incidents.

Pro Landscaper speaks with landscapers from across the UK to find out just how much this problem is costing the industry.

 How big is the problem?

To calculate the financial cost that theft puts onto the landscaping industry, one must consider several factors. These include the cost of any equipment that needs replacing, the increased insurance premiums from claims made and the damage to security systems, vehicles or property during theft.

Costs incurred by the firms which spoke with Pro Landscaper varied greatly. From smaller firms based in the south of England experiencing as little as £2,700 in costs, to larger companies who lost as much as £200,000.

The frequency with which landscaping and grounds maintenance firms experience attempted theft varies substantially. This depends on the size of the company and geographical locations. Firms based in the south of England experience nearly eight times less theft attempts than any other area in the country.

A recent study has revealed the top 10 most targeted areas for tool theft in the UK:

  1. London
  2. Sheffield
  3. Birmingham
  4. Leicester
  5. Chelmsford
  6. Tunbridge Wells
  7. Bristol
  8. Nottingham
  9. Northampton
  10. Reading

Can it be stopped?

“We notice that theft in landscaping is, to a certain extent, seasonal. The majority of attempted theft occurs during the start of the maintenance season. This is when we usually have several items of new equipment such as strimmers and mowers taken from vans,” Darren Skidmore, contacts director at Skidmores Ltd tells us. Knowing the time of year equipment and vans are targeted should prompt business owners to be more vigilant during this period.

With thieves rampant, the market for preventative equipment is booming. A new innovation from manufacturer Nuki brings in smart Bluetooth technology to fight thieves more accustomed to analogue security measures. “We have developed a defining access solution that suits the UK’s needs for more sophisticating locking,” says Nuki’s CEO, Martin Pansy. “We have seen the burgeoning market appear in the UK, hence us bringing the Nuki Smart Lock 2.0 to market this year.”

Regrettably, landscapers are having their arms twisted by the law when it comes to deterring thieves and protecting their property. Tony Woods, director of Garden Club London, explains: “Unfortunately, the more we do, the more brazen the thieves get. This is because they know that police will not deter or prosecute for van or tool theft. We are dealing with organised gangs, not opportunist thieves!”

Concurring with Tony’s assessment of the law’s lacklustre approach, Angus Lindsay, group head of assets and fleet management for idverde, tells Pro Landscaper:

“With the police under resourced and struggling to cope with rising crime, their response is to issue a crime number and advise that you speak to your insurer.

“This is all well and good, but it will only result in higher costs for all parties through increased premiums, replacement of equipment and in security measures taken by the client.”

A Liverpool-based landscaper who has asked to remain anonymous, told Pro Landscaper:

“I encounter attempted theft all the time. Tools are an easy thing for these thieves to sell, but, being a one-man-band, my tools are rarely left unattended.”

Advising on the best methods to secure equipment, Ed Burnham, director of Burnham Landscapes, says:

“A secure lock up and vehicles are essential. If thieves can see effort has gone into securing them, this will make them a much less attractive target.” This appears to be a consensus across all the firms Pro Landscaper has spoken to, with exterior padlocks and chains being a popular approach, along with chaining equipment up inside vehicles.

Angus recommends some more advanced methods for deterring thieves. “Forensic marking systems are handy deterrents. This requires specialist products such as SmartWater that invisibly marks equipment – the last thing a thief ever wants is to be linked to a crime scene or have a traceable product. We would also recommend engraving valuable equipment, or completely respraying it if viable.”

A representative from BGS Landscapes and Fencing based outside Exeter told Pro Landscaper: “I couldn’t claim from my tools in transit policy as the deadlocks were not locked on one occasion, but the normal van locks were.

Speaking on what happened after reporting the theft to the authorities, BGS said: “Unfortunately, I found that the police were more interested in giving out a crime number and advising us to contact our insurance company.”

GPS systems are on the rise in the landscaping market as a way to recover stolen equipment. “An increase in the recovery of stolen items should hopefully lead to thieves thinking twice before attempting to steal landscaping equipment,” concludes David Dodd, managing director of The Outdoor Room.

Concluding thoughts

The issue with theft of landscaping tools and equipment is not an overnight fix, but measures must be adopted if the industry is to continue its growth. Tony Woods states: “Theft stunts the growth of the business, strips us of profit and re-investment opportunity and constantly increases our overheads.”

One landscaper aptly concludes: “I think people thieving the tools of hard-working providers are the lowest of the low.”

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