Van Crime – How Can We Protect Our Vehicles?

Since the Van Security Talk Group was set up in October 2015, we’ve seen countless posts from tradespeople about their vans being targeted for the tools inside. We know that removing tools every night is not an option for everyone, so we thought we’d look at the different ways thieves break into vans to see how we can try to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of tool theft.

A recent poll we ran on the group asking about the methods used to gain access for tool theft revealed that of the people who took part, 37% had had their locks gouged or a screwdriver used to open the van, 35% had been the victim of the tibbe key, 11% had a windows smashed, 8% were peel and steal, 7% of tool thefts were carried out using a scanner device to steal the vehicles remote key code with the remaining 2% subjected to the panels of the van being cut open.

We thought we’d take a closer look at some of the different methods thieves use to get in and what we can do to stop them and increase our van security.

So the first on our list, screwdriver in lock or gouge lock out.

What is it?

Exactly what it says on the tin. Apart from smashing your window, we reckon this is the most basic way of a thief getting in. The chancing thief shoves a screwdriver in your lock, wiggles it around and hey presto! They are in – particularly if you drive a Ford, in fact it has been known for another Ford key to work on different models, especially on older models. Or they gouge out the lock from the door and gain access that way.

How can we stop them?

The kind of criminal using a screwdriver can be stopped by fitting more secure locks in place of the factory fitted ones but with the addition of getting armour plate put around the lock too, to prevent the lock being gouged out of the door.

The next most used method, the Tibbe Key.

What is it?

This piece of equipment, a skeleton key, has been used by locksmiths for years to gain entry when you’ve lost your keys, or can’t get entry to your vehicle. But more recently with the rise of internet shopping, they can be purchased by anyone, on online selling sites. Retailing at around £20, they are easy to carry around and because it’s a key, it’s not something they can be arrested for having on their person whilst out and about.

How can we stop them?

You’ve got two choices to avoid your van being opened by a tibbe key. One is to replace the factory fitted locks with locksmith fitted ones. The second option would be to have additional separate deadlocks or slamlocks on all doors, so that even when the factory fitted locks are opened the deadlocks remain secure.

Next up, Peel and Steal.

Richard Matthew’s van, peeled open in broad daylight.

What is it?

Exactly what it sounds like, thieves get a grip of the top (or bottom) of your van’s back or side door, stick their knees into the panels weakest point and use their own body weight to pull the door away from the body of the van. They can then gain access to the back of your van.

Richard Matthews, from Warrington, was subjected to a “Peel and Steal” crime while he was at work, here’s his account.

‘I am currently working at the Natwest Bank, in Bradford. My van was parked a 5 minute walk away from where I was working. The incident happened around 3.30pm on a Friday afternoon. When I called the police to report the crime they said it would take the Forensic Team up to 3 hours before they could send anyone out. I travel from Warrington to Bradford, waiting 3 hours is just not feasible for me at the end of my working day. The police did phone me back saying they would contact the car park owner for CCTV footage but as of yet I haven’t heard anything from them. I was lucky, the thieves only took 2 cordless drills. Unfortunately, the damage they did to my van will cost an awful lot more to fix.’

How can we stop them?

Additional deadlocks, fitted at strategic points on your vehicle’s doors, as close to the top and bottom as possible – this will make sure that the thieves can’t prise the door away from it’s opening.

So, what can we do?

The top and bottom of it is, if van manufacturers built their vans to be fit for purpose, i.e. able to transport and provide secure storage for tools, or whatever the contents happen to be, then hardworking trades wouldn’t have to spend a fortune on making their vans secure against tool theft. This means an upgrade to the locks and strengthening the door panels, so that thieves don’t have such an easy way in.

If the re-sale of second hand tools was controlled, the way that scrap metal has been, then the value of tools would be lost and thieving toe-rags would have to find something else to use to make their money. (They could even try working, like the rest of us!)

Until we can force a change in the way this problem is being tackled we face an expensive solution to the problem of keeping our tools safe, the cost of fitting additional security to our vans and storage solutions inside them.

We will keep pushing for this to happen, as tradespeople we have to stand together to be heard, if you have a van and you want it to be safe from tool thieves then you really need to lobby the manufacturers, get your local MP involved, write to your Police and Crime Commissioner, these people are elected to stand up for us!

Let’s make our voices heard. Let’s stop tool theft.

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