Third-year apprentice carpenter Jack Sykes saved up for years to buy himself the best quality tools for the job he loves.
But on Tuesday night, that hard work was ripped away when a thief picked the lock on his ute's toolbox while it was parked near his North Wollongong home, stealing almost $10,000 worth of items.
Mr Sykes was left with just his nail bag.
As the tools were locked up on the tray of his ute and not in the cabin, he said, vehicle insurance did not cover them.
Mr Sykes also did not have tools insurance, because it was expensive for an apprentice.
He now has to save up the money again to replace the tools.
Wollongong police Chief Inspector Angella Burnell said such crimes occurred in most areas from time to time.
"These incidents are often opportunistic, where the offenders see the tools unsecured or on display within the vehicle as they are walking by. It can happen in the day or night," Insp Burnell said.
"It is suspected that these offenders are then on-selling their illegal gains for a quick buck."
Since Mr Sykes' tools were thieved, he's been forced to borrow tools from his workmates or hand over particular jobs to other people.
"It's OK for someone who's a first-year apprentice [to be without tools]... But I'm on the tools quite a lot," he said.
Mr Sykes feels bad for having to rely on workmates and slowing his boss down.
In the year to March, belongings were stolen from vehicles in the Wollongong local government area at a rate of almost 413 crimes per 100,000 people - well above the state average.
But more promisingly, there has been a downward trend in the number of these thefts over the last two and five years.
Mr Sykes said it was upsetting to think someone would be happy to steal the belongings he worked hard to acquire.
"They don't realise how much it's actually affecting me with my job," Mr Sykes said.
The thief also damaged his toolbox, meaning he will have to replace that, too.
He believes the crime wasn't opportunistic and the culprit knew what they were doing, because they would have needed a vehicle to carry such a large amount of tools away.
The theft has had such an impact on Mr Sykes that he is considering selling his ute and buying a van instead, in the hopes that would make his belongings less enticing to thieves.
But he said he was warmed by the response after he shared his experience on social media in the hopes someone might have information, with people offering their sympathies and sharing his post to spread word.
Insp Burnell said it was best for people to unload their vehicles overnight to minimise the risk of such thefts or employ other strategies, such as parking in a secure garage where possible, removing valuables from sight, or using robust security devices.
She also advised people to engrave their tools (Mr Sykes' were marked) and keep receipts and serial numbers.
"From time to time we recover tools which we suspect to be stolen, however can struggle to track down the owners due to lack of information at the time of the original report or no report ever being made at all," Insp Burnell said.
"Always report any theft or suspicious activity to police."
Anyone who knows anything about the theft from Mr Sykes or any other crime should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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