How to protect your van from break-ins and tool theft

Published: 29th March 2023 Read time: 8 minutes
Tools & parts

With shorter, darker days, there's an abundance of opportunity for thieves to take their chances. It's estimated that a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK, so being vigilant in the winter months is essential.

We'll share some of our top tips for van security, including how to protect your van from break-ins and avoiding tool theft.

The rise of van theft

Figures show that van theft in 2019 had risen by nearly 50% since 2015 with an average of 22 vans being stolen every day. This adds up in terms of cost and time taken off work, especially as 50% of tradespeople were unable to work the next day and even up to two weeks after the incident.

Add to this the mental health stress, worry and reputational damage as a result of van theft, it’s easy to see that prevention is far better than the cure. But with thieves using increasingly advanced ways to break into vehicles, it’s more important than ever to stay alert with your van security.

Methods used to break into vans

Over the years, criminals have been using various methods to break into vans, but an emerging trend is the ‘peel and steal’. This involves a thief using the sliding door to gain access and is worryingly simple. By putting pressure on the door, a criminal can widen the gap enabling them to pull the door down. Even more concerning is that this method won’t trigger an alarm, if one is fitted.

Other common ways to break into vans include the traditional methods of forcing locks, breaking windows and, in recent years, using wireless transmitters on keyless entry systems.

Of course, some criminals are opportunistic and get into vans when they’ve been left unlocked, proving that van security must always be a priority, even if you’re only planning to leave your vehicle unattended for a very short time.

And it’s not just the vehicle that criminals are targeting. Often, thieves manage to steal expensive tools and equipment, particularly from vans where it’s easy to see what’s being kept inside.

While these ways of breaking into a van are concerning, to say the least, there are things you can do to help protect your van and contents.

Van security must-dos

If you’re a tradesperson, you’ll know how expensive tools and equipment can be, so it’s important to remember the basics:

      Lock doors – this almost goes without saying: criminals are opportunistic and can easily steal tools from a van that is left unattended even for just a short time.
      Remove keys – even if you know you’ll only be away from your van for seconds, always remove your keys and keep them with you, rather than in a discarded jacket pocket for example.
      Secure van windows – ensure all windows are closed properly, as leaving even a small gap can attract criminals and leave them with ample opportunity to break in.
      Install van security systems – these include van security alarms, van security locks and a steering wheel lock. For additional protection, include a van security camera and deter criminals with a CCTV label on your van.
      Remove visible items – ensure there are no items in view on the seats or footwells, regardless of worth. This will help deter potential thefts.
      Remove tools and equipment overnight – get into the habit of taking out all tools every night so there’s nothing to steal if you’re unlucky enough to have your van broken into.

Parking overnight tips

Figures show that a van’s contents were most likely to be stolen from a vehicle parked on the street, however, theft of the van itself was more likely to occur when parked on a driveway.

The risk of both of these crimes increases when the van is parked overnight. To deter criminals and keep your van and contents safe, there are a few simple guidelines you can follow:

      Use your garage – if you have use of a garage, park your van there overnight to keep it out of view.
      Park on a well-lit driveway – add CCTV and light sensors to your driveway and install a van security camera. You could also install smart systems, such as video door bells, for extra home and van security.
      Use a busy, well-lit street – if a driveway is not an option, parking on a street with lighting and other vehicles will offer some van security.
      Remove tools – as mentioned before, wherever you park, always remove your equipment overnight and display a sign in your van stating that nothing is left inside.

hat to do if your van gets stolen or broken into

If you’re an unfortunate victim of van or equipment theft, the first thing you should do is report it to the police and obtain a crime reference number for your insurance. When you contact your insurer, give them a list of anything that was in the van to ensure it’s all covered.

If your van is stolen, you’ll need to inform the DVLA if your insurance company pays out.

Sadly, no matter how van security-conscious you are, theft can still happen, whether your van is on site or parked at home. But following the tips in this article should help minimise your chances of being a victim.

If you're on a job, it’s easy to avoid keeping expensive or essential items like boilers or radiators in your van by collecting these items from your nearest City Plumbing branch on the day of installation.

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