It has been reported that a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK, with UK tool theft shooting up by over 30% in the last year and police figures suggesting it has rocketed by nearly two thirds in two years. In 2014/15 there was a worrying 14,063 reported tool thefts, to which this number rose to 22,749 in the year 2016/17. With these figures, many van owners and authorities are now raising their concerns that we are witnessing a van tool theft epidemic.
According to Simply Business, the regions suggested to be the most at risk of tool theft are tradesmen within Yorkshire and the Midlands. London is the city at the most risk, with between 200 and 300 tool theft claims reported in 2016, closely followed by Bristol in second place and Sheffield in third. And it appears that it is not just the number of van thefts on the rise, but also the value of van theft claims, with a 40% increase in the average value of tool theft claims witnessed between 2012 and 2016.
In 2015, Simply Business processed a total value of £1.9 million in theft claims – this number then rose to £2.8 million the following year in 2016. The average tool theft claim value now stands at around £1,626 as thieves steal more valuable equipment – a 40% increased on the average claim value in 2015.
But how are thieves breaking into our vans? There are two methods in particular that campaigners are blaming the increase in tool theft on – the ‘peel and steal’ method, and the use of skeleton keys. The peel and steal method is where criminals use their bodyweight to ‘peel’ the van open and then lift the top of the side door open to reveal any tools located in the van. A method that resembles opening a tin of sardines – and many tradesmen have now become aware of. The method has become so popular that campaigners estimate that a total of five tool thefts everyday are committed using the peel and steal method.
The skeleton key is generally a legal tool used to aid locksmiths. However, they have now become readily and easily available online to the general public at the cost of just £20. According to Steffan George from the Master Locksmith Association, “these are legitimate locksmith’s tools…but they shouldn’t be available to everyone.” He goes on to say that they would welcome a restriction on the sale of skeleton keys.
Preventing van tool theft
For many tradesmen, being a victim of tool theft can put their business at a stand-still – their tools are crucial to their work, and avoiding van break ins can be tough. However, commercial vans specialist Van Monster present this guide on protecting your van from tool theft.
Security should be high up on your priority list when buying a company vehicle – and most modern models offer a good selection of security features to protect your van. Consider tinted windows to reduce visibility, an alarm, immobiliser or deadlocks for all your doors. Whilst they may be an added expense when you buy your van, they could save you money in the long-term in if they protect your van and tools from theft and damage which could also result in you being unable to work.
Lock your van
Your security is only worthwhile if you make use of it. Whenever you leave your van unattended you should always lock it up, including closing all windows and doors. Thieves will take any opportunity they can if they think you have something worthwhile stealing in your van.
Store tools safely
Don’t leave any valuables in your van at any time, and don’t leave any tools on show whilst you are not in your van. You should also consider storing your tools safely indoors overnight and leaving your van empty. Many tradesmen put stickers on their vans to act as a deterrent telling thieves that there are no tools stored in the vehicle overnight.
Be aware of what is in your van
Keep a record of what is in your van at all times. It would be worthwhile retaining the receipts of your tools, especially more expensive and valuable tools, in case you need to make an insurance claim and need to prove the item was included.
Choose your parking location carefully
When parking your vehicle, it is wise to ensure you park your van within a busy area that is likely to have a lot of people around – or in a location that is covered by CCTV. This way you can deter potential thieves from targeting your van, and in the event that your van is broken into, there are likely to be witnesses, or CCTV footage.
Unfortunately, tool theft is always going to be a risk no matter what precautions you take to try and prevent it. You should consider specific tool insurance to ensure that all your tools are cover should you ever find yourself, or your company, a victim of tool theft.