Theft sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It leaves you feeling violated and all to aware of your vulnerability. That’s why there’s no time like the present to increase the security you have on your power tools… Thanks to the good folks at SawmillCreek for starting the lively thread How do you prevent theft/break-ins at your shop? which served as inspiration for this article.

1) Good Security Lighting Outside
Good security lighting lets people from the street, neighbors, and YOU see what’s happening on your property. This means eliminating large shadows and making sure that you’re not creating a glare anywhere – shadows and glare are friends to thieves. Also, bright-white light allows for the highest rate of accurate identification of intruders. Check out this article on construction site security lighting for more tips.

2) Dogs
Enough said. Nearly everyone posting in that SMC thread that inspired this article wrote about getting a dog. The former insurance adjustors who posted on the thread said that they never filed insurance claims at houses with dogs. See Top Dogs for Security Work and Top Dogs for Watchdog Barking and Dogs Least Likely to Succeed at Watchdog Barking.

3) Reduce Your Workshop’s “Curb Appeal”
In other words, if no one can see that you have nice tools they won’t steal them. Keep the inside lights OFF when you’re not in there, the curtains drawn and if it’s a garage workshop invest in dust collection rather than keeping the door open. Other things that reduce curb appeal and window shopping include trimming hedges and removing cover that intruders could use to hide behind.

4) A Warning About Craigslist!
Not to frighten you away from selling your goods, but thieves sometimes prowl Craigslist postings to find good targets. And why not? They can come in posing as a buyer and see if your goods – or other items in your shop – are worth stealing. One SMC commenter took extra precaution when a potential craigslist buyer seemed to have NO IDEA what the machine did. Another says he always shows for sale items AWAY from his shop. Unfortunately you have to be somewhat wary of the buying public…

5) Your Neighbors Are Your Best Defense
No matter how you happen to feel about them, your neighbors are one of your best defenses against theft on your property. Especially the nosey ones. Consider joining your neighborhood watch, or even starting one. This goes double if there’s been an increase in break ins in your area (you can monitor neighborhood crime that gets reported using Google Alerts). If you’re more of the community organizer type check out this article on increasing your neighborhood security.

6) Create a Tool Inventory List + Etch the Serial Numbers
Tool inventories and etched serial numbers are not theft deterrents, but they can sure help in the event that cops try and track your tools down in the local pawn shops. These safeguards also show the insurance agency that you went the extra mile and should help your claims in the case that your workshop is hit.

7) Alarms and Fake Alarm Systems: Warning Stickers and Foil Tape
You may not need to invest in an entire alarm system… sometimes blinking red lights and foil tape on your windows will be enough to deter potential thieves. On the other hand, why not really protect yourself and install an actual alarm? You will need to spend some time doing price comparisons and shopping for options…

8) Motion Sensor Alarm Horn and Lights Inside the Shop
Nothing gets a criminal running like a piercing blast of an air horn. I read of some shop owners who rigged horns and lights to motion detectors inside their shops. This line of defense is sure to wake you up too so that you can deal with the intruders as you see fit. Just make sure your animals can’t or don’t get in the shop…

9) Limit Onsite Worker Access and Visibility
In construction site crime it’s often an inside job – sub contractors scope out theft opportunities and come back later with their buddies. The same can happen when you have workers in at your house. I’m not trying to sew suspicion here or cast a shadow on any contractors. That said, if no one knows it’s there it won’t get stolen. If possible keep your valuable power tools locked and out of site when you have workers in at your house.

10) A Tool Crib or Safe Box for Very Expensive Tools
Put all your Festools and other highly valuable, highly portable tools away in a lock box inside your workshop. A lock box is an especially good combination with a motion sensor and horn – it keeps thieves from dashing out with your tools before the cops show up to your 911 call. This could be an over-expensive solution for some, but for others it could be just the right compliment.

11) Strong Bars, Locks and Doors
Because thieves want to get in and out so quickly they are not prone to picking locks. They are far more likely to bash a door in. Strong bars on windows and strong locks on strong doors will keep your power tools safe. I also read of someone stopping a garage door track with a vice grip – and my dad always unplugs his garage door opener when he leaves the garage. His shops in the basement though but that’s another story…

12) Call Your Insurance Agent And Keep Your Tool Documentation Up to Date
If this article put a little fear in you consider at least contacting your insurance agent and making sure that your tools are covered. If so, make sure that you’ve followed the appropriate procedures for documenting all your tools. This will likely include inventory lists, records of receipts, proofs of purchase and video documentation.

Honorable Mention Tip: In Rural Areas Do Target Practice Regularly
I’m not sure how effective this idea is, but I had to include it. If you’re in a rural area consider putting up a berm and conduct regular target practice. The sound of gun shots makes a great reminder to would-be criminals that you’re exercising your 2nd amendment.

Other More or Less Related Resources
How do you prevent theft/break-ins at your shop?
Can You Claim Power Tool Depreciation on Taxes?
Are Your Power Tools Covered in Your Insurance?