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  Posted by: electime      16th September 2019

Van crime and tool theft in the UK is increasing. Figures published by the BBC say that van crime rose from 14,063 incidents in 2014/15 to 22,749 in 2016/17.

Worrying figures indeed for tradespeople – their van is their workhorse, their work tools their livelihood.

Many victims of van crime are unable to work for days and lose hundreds, if not thousands of pounds in earnings. On top of this, having to pay for repairs to their van, if they still have it, and for replacement tools.

Statistics to make you think:

Research throws up alarming statistics: it can take as little as 10 seconds for a thief to break into a vehicle; Radio 5 Live quoted police figures claiming that in the UK, a van is broken into every 23 minutes; over half of all tradespeople have been a victim of van crime at least once and the average value of van theft is over £1,500.

How do thieves get in?

Skeleton keys and the ‘peel and steal’ method are the most popular methods of unauthorised entry.

Skeleton keys, which should be restricted to registered locksmiths, are frighteningly available online for just £20, and give thieves easy access to many vehicles.

Peel and steal is simply a matter of brute force. The thief leans against the vehicle’s door and uses their bodyweight to ‘peel’ the door away from its frame, as if opening a tin.

There is also a rise in high-tech crime and with keyless entry reaching the light commercial vehicle (LCV) market, theft relating to keyless entry is not unsurprisingly on the increase.

What are automotive manufacturers doing to help?

From looking at the stats, it is not immediately clear what manufacturers are doing to increase vehicle security. However, the truth is that security has never been better.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says: “New cars have never been more secure and the latest technology has helped bring down theft dramatically. Manufacturers invest billions to stay one step ahead of the criminals and the latest models feature sophisticated immobilisers, tracking devices and encrypted key codes to prevent cloning.”

What security features should you consider when purchasing a van?

Most modern vehicles offer excellent security features but, it can be easy to skip security with so many other features to select and a budget to stick to. This can be a big mistake.

Deterring thieves in the first place is crucial. Give priority to considering security features when making a new purchase, or kitting out an existing vehicle:

  • Does the van have an alarm and immobiliser?
  • Purchase extras such as lockable toolboxes, deadlocks and slamlocks
  • Tinted windows
  • Rethink those glazed rear windows
  • Is a second rear door necessary?
  • Keeping the cab and load area separated can be of benefit so ensure a decent bulkhead is fitted
  • Electronic GPS tracker – easier to recover van if stolen and can lower insurance premium
  • Catalytic converter theft is also increasing, anti-theft devices are available
  • If keyless entry is applicable, store keys in a metal container or “faraday” pouch.

What else can you do to minimise the risk of van crime?

Minimising risk is often a matter of common sense. However, common sense measures can be time consuming and are not always possible, and let’s not forget that if someone really wants to gain access to a vehicle, it is extremely hard to stop them.

Prevention is better than cure, so it is imperative to take all necessary steps to make a potential thief think twice before targeting a vehicle:

  • When unattended make sure all belongings are removed from the van, don’t leave anything visible
  • If possible, store tools away from the van at night and ensure that a ‘No tools left in this van overnight’ sticker is clearly displayed
  • Make sure the van is locked and all windows firmly closed
  • Keep all documents relating to the van ownership in your home or office, not in the vehicle
  • When attended, even if for a very short time, remove the keys
  • Park the van in well-lit areas, ideally where it is covered by CCTV
  • Ensure all tools are insured, keep all receipts and proof of equipment used in your home or office.

With van crime offenders often given disappointingly low fines for such costly criminal behaviour, there is currently a petition running asking the government to investigate what more can be done to tackle van and van tool theft. Thus far the petition has reached over 39,000 signatures, with an initial response from the government given back in November 2018 stating their position and outlining their work with the police and other relevant parties in a bid to reduce such crimes. It may not achieve enough signatures to be debated in Parliament but the petition has brought more attention to the problem.

Ultimately, it is down to you as the van owner to do all you can to protect the van and its contents. Think about that and think about it now!

By Simon Joyce, managing director, Anchor Vans