Builder campaigns to tackle rising problems of equipment theft from vans

liz gribbin builders talk group
Campaign: Liz Gribbin, of Builders Talk Group

A Leeds builder who helped set up a thriving online network of tens of thousands of tradespeople is campaigning to get police across the country to take theft from vans more seriously.

Liz Gribbin is one of the leading lights behind the Builders’ Talk Group, which is a trade group run by builders, for builders, to offer general support and advice and help people who are in crisis or who are struggling with their mental health.

Along with similar groups for plasterers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and decorators, the Facebook-based groups have than 130,000 members.

And Mrs Gribbin, 49, who originally hails from Pudsey, is now tackling a campaign to get the police to take theft from vans as a more serious crime due to the impact it can have on tradespeople’s lives and their mental health.

She said:

“A lot of the guys work for themselves, they have no support network behind them and no-one to talk to. That’s why we’ve set the groups and the website up, to offer that support.

“People tend to forget they’re just people trying to do their best and provide for the family. When someone steals £6,000 of equipment by breaking into your van it’s like someone removing both your hands. You’ve essentially lost your livelihood, particularly if you’re not insured.

“The stress and worry is overwhelming and a lot of the guys simply can’t afford to replace them. At the end of the day they’re just normal guys, human beings. I’ve known it lead to relationship breakdowns and attempted suicide, particularly if the insurance doesn’t pay out.

“Getting your house broken into is bad enough, but in many respects this is even worse. The difference with van break ins is that the police won’t turn up for two days, if at all in most cases, you can’t leave your van vulnerable while they decide whether to follow it up or not. This is something we are trying to change.”

Mrs Gribbin has spoken to Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew to enlist his support, and he has provided help and advice to her campaign.

Forty three police and crime commissioners across the country have been contacted, positive responses from some, leading to online conversations.

She is hopeful of making some progress and added:

“We want the crimes to be taken more seriously based on the impact they have. They tend to get lumped in with theft from vehicle, but it’s nowhere near the same thing as having your sat nav stolen. I’m hopeful we can make some progress.

“People don’t always understand how difficult the job is, and I hope this is raising awareness.”

The Facebook groups continue to support a number of builders who have experienced mental health difficulties, with members often supporting each other when they need help. The builders’ group was first set up seven years ago when her husband George set up a plasterers’ group and it took off.

The network now includes Facebook groups and a website featuring tips, advice, business coaching and more. Much of this is paid for by Mrs Gribbin, who now lives in Rawdon.

The website can be found here. For more information, or to support Builders’ Talk Group, e-mail


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