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Carpenter places AirTags in larger tools, leading Md. police to cache of stolen tools worth between $3-5M

The tools were stolen from various contractors and retailers, with Howard County Police stating that some of the thefts dated back to 2014

By Joanna Putman

HOWARD COUNTY, Md. -- A Virginia carpenter, frustrated by repeated thefts of his tools, successfully used Apple AirTags to track down stolen equipment, leading to the recovery of approximately 15,000 construction tools valued at $3 to $5 million, the Washington Post reported.

After experiencing two previous break-ins, the carpenter, whose identity remains anonymous for safety reasons, decided to place AirTags in some of his larger tools, according to the report. His plan proved effective on January 22, when his van was broken into a third time. Using his phone to follow the AirTags’ signal, he tracked his tools to a storage facility in Howard County, Maryland.

Upon his arrival, the carpenter contacted the Howard County Police Department who then obtained a search warrant for the storage unit, according to the report. Inside, officers discovered a trove of stolen power tools. This initial find led to further investigations over the next four months, uncovering similar caches at 12 locations, 11 of which were in Howard County.

“The scope of the investigation is enormous and ongoing,” Howard County Police Chief Gregory Der told reporters, noting that the tools were stolen from various sources, including retail stores, businesses, vehicles, residential properties and construction sites.

While no arrests have been made, Der indicated that multiple suspects are under investigation and charges are expected soon, according to the report. The carpenter has already recovered some of his stolen tools and hopes for more.

“They steal our job,” he said of the thieves.

Approximately a quarter of the tools were still in store boxes with traceable labels, while many others, some stolen as far back as 2014, are harder to identify, according to the report. Authorities have identified around 80 victims so far and believe there could be hundreds or even thousands more.

To help reunite victims with their stolen property, police have created an online form where individuals can provide details about their missing tools, such as serial numbers, receipts and identifying marks, according to the report. As of the latest update, 140 forms had been submitted, and officers are working diligently to return the tools to their rightful owners.