Simon Joyce, Managing Director of Anchor Vans, discusses the issue of van crime and what installers can do to protect themselves.
By all accounts, van crime and tool theft in the UK is increasing. Figures published by the BBC in 2017 report that van crime rose from 14,063 incidents in 2014/15 to 22,749 in 2016/17.
These are worrying figures indeed for tradespeople – their van is their workhorse, their work tool, 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, they have to pay for repairs to their van, if they still have it, and for replacement tools.
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, that 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 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 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 the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “New cars have never been more secure, and the latest technology has helped bring theft down 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. Consider the following:
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:
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.