A surge in tool thefts has prompted Levin police to be proactive in making life tough for thieves who trade stolen items on the black market.

Part of the fight against crime was a free tool engraving session tomorrow in Levin, where anyone with a tool was encouraged to bring it along and permanently mark it with their personal identification details.

Levin Police sergeant Bernie O'Brien said engraving an expensive tool had a two-fold outcome. It acted as a deterrent for thieves, and it also helped any recovered stolen items find their way back to their original owner.

"Often with a search warrant we recover stolen items but there is no way of knowing who they belonged to originally," he said.

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O'Brien said all tools, especially power tools like cordless drills, grinders and chainsaws, where a popular target for thieves and could easily be traded on the black market if there was no identification marks.

"The engraving workshop is a great service in that it is free and it just means we can then link it back to the originally owner. It's a proof thing," he said.

"People get stuff stolen. It's a deterrent. That's the science behind it."

O'Brien said anyone buying cheap tools should also be aware they could be stolen and to be vigilant in what they buy, as they had a role to play in stemming any illegal trade.

"If it sounds too good to be true..." he said.

While trade vehicle on work sites were targeted by thieves, so were home handypeople. The Free Tool Engraving Session would be held tomorrow at Mitre 10, Levin, in Totara Street, between 8.30am and 12.30pm.