Van theft report, what can you do to reduce the risk?

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Tool theft from vans and property is still a huge problem and can have a massive impact on the victims due to loss of earnings, mental health, stress and emotional issues generated from having tools stolen.

Unfortunately, it’s a frequent occurrence across the country; in 2020 and 2021, 58,833 tools were reported stolen ironmongery direct have compiled some figures from recent van theft figures.

This works out at 2,029 incidents of tool theft per police force, on average, but many constabularies report far higher case numbers.

The Metropolitan Police Service deals with the most offences of this kind, with 21,630 over the two years. The West Yorkshire (6,684) and Northamptonshire (4,244) police forces complete the top three.

Tool theft map and table
Tool theft map and table

However, more positively, the Metropolitan Police Service was the only police force in the UK to experience a rise in tool theft between 2020 and 2021 (4%).

More than nine in ten (93%) of the police forces that replied to our FOI requests said figures were down year-on-year, and across the nation, the total amount of stolen tools was down by 17% (32,221 to 26,612).

Despite registering the third highest figure for tool theft, incidents in Northamptonshire are decreasing at the fastest rate, as there were 64% fewer crimes in 2021 than 2020.

The ten UK police forces that are experiencing the biggest decreases in tool theft are:

tool theft decreasing by area
tool theft decreasing by area

Highest value

Despite the number of stolen tools decreasing, the value of items taken is on the rise.

In 2021, £52,944,660 worth of tools were stolen across the UK, which was over £5.5 million (12%) more than the previous year (£47,385,080).

Combined, over £100 million of tools were illegally taken over the two years.

It’s worth noting that this figure could be even higher in reality, as many police reports about tool theft don’t record the value of the goods.

The most valuable tools were stolen from West Yorkshire, where over £50 million of equipment was taken between 2020 and 2021.

The 10 police forces with the highest value of stolen tools are:

Stolen tools by value
Stolen tools by value

How to protect yourself from tool theft

To help you protect yourself from thieves and to keep your tools safe, Director at Herts Tools, Stefano Lobban, to offer security advice.

1) Be careful where you keep your tools

“If possible, don’t store tools in your van overnight. If you have to leave tools in your van for any length of time, park with rear or sliding doors against a wall or fence. Parking in a busy area covered by CCTV will also deter thieves.”

2) Invest in security its worth it

“Get an alarm, a lockable interior cabinet or interior deadbolts for your van. These measures make it harder – and noisier – for thieves to get at your tools. Make thieves aware of the safety measures you’ve taken by placing stickers on your van to deter them”

3) Make your tools less appealing to thieves 

“Make your tools less attractive to thieves by removing brand name plates and marking them with neon spray paint. This will also make them easier to identify if they do get stolen.”

How can you recover your lost tools?

Stefano also offers advice on how tradespeople can attempt to recover any tools stolen.

1) Keep records

“Retrieve serial numbers, makes and models for your tools. It’s always a good idea to keep records of this information.”

2) Contact the police

“Report your items as stolen. Call the police on 101 as soon as you notice the tools are missing.”

3) Look for your tools online

“Search for them online (including on eBay and Facebook Marketplace) and in local pawn shops. If you find them, ask the seller to hold the tools for you and then contact the police.”

4) Ask the trade community

“Join trade groups on social media and ask others to look out for your items.”


Van theft

Regional hotspots

Van theft is another serious problem that thousands of tradespeople are faced with every year.

In 2020 and 2021, 14,919 trade vehicles were stolen across the UK, and almost two in five (38%) police forces reported year-on-year increases.

In two regions, incidents more than doubled over this time period, with Cambridgeshire seeing the biggest rise.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary saw a 103% increase in van theft, from 68 in 2020 up to 138 in 2021.

However, most vans are stolen in London, with the Metropolitan Police Service dealing with 6,839 cases over the two years – more than treble the number of West Yorkshire (2,015) in second place.

Van theft map and table
Van theft map and table

In contrast, some police forces did see decreases, and Norfolk Constabulary leads the way. Van theft in Norfolk was down 35% year-on-year, from 54 down to 35. Staffordshire Police wasn’t far behind, with a 32% drop from 94 down to 64.

How to protect yourself from van theft

We’ve partnered with Dan Powell, motoring expert at Desperate Seller, to offer advice on how you can reduce your risk of van theft.

1) Secure your spare wheel

“Spare wheels are often unscrewed and stolen without the van owner’s knowledge. Once you’ve checked that you still have yours, make sure it’s secured with a wheel lock. There are inexpensive products on the market that can save you the hassle of being caught out.”

2) Make sure the security matches the badge

“These days, thieves often steal to order, focussing their criminal efforts on in-demand brands with strong resale values. Mercedes-Benz Sprinters and Ford Transits are among the most common targets.

“If you own an in-demand van, I’d advise taking a few extra precautions such as fitting a GPS tracker, buying a lockable bollard for your driveway or work car park, and blocking the van in with other vehicles.”

“In short, the more barriers you can put between the vehicle and a quick getaway, the better. Small obstacles can mean the difference between theft or the crook moving on to the next target.”

3) Park in well-lit areas

“Although high-tech dash-cams and location trackers can help you find your van after the case, parking in well-lit, highly trafficked areas can be the most effective deterrent.

“It makes a discrete getaway extremely difficult. If it means paying a little more for parking or walking an extra few minutes to your destination, it’s a lot less effort and cost than the alternative.”

4) Make sure you have insurance

“Finally, and most importantly, it’s always worth having adequate van insurance in place in case of theft or damage.

“It’s easy to forget about all your tools and equipment when trying to get the best deal on insurance, but it’s worth forking out for the extra cover that could save you the replacement cost.

“Ensure the insurance policy includes tools and equipment left in the van overnight. Not all insurance products will provide this, and if you need to leave valuables in the vehicle, it’s essential to make sure they are covered.”

Wherever you live in the UK and no matter which trade you work in, it’s always advisable to invest in security to keep yourself, your tools and your vehicles safe. Check out our locks, safety and security range to make sure you’re protected.