Tradespeople suffering from soaring tool thefts

Tool theft from vans has soared by 15% in the last three years, costing UK businesses over £46 million, with central London the worst hit area, according to research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Facts and figures obtained by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles via a Freedom of Information request reveal the total cost of equipment stolen from vans – which includes power tools and heavy machinery – is more than £46 million over the last three years. Police forces across the UK have recorded over 64,000 cases of theft from commercial vehicles since April 2015, with a record 23,859 incidents in 2017/18.

The worst area for tool theft is central London where the Metropolitan Police recorded over 8000 cases a year worth an average of £11 million. Northumbria (4000 reports a year) and West Yorkshire (1000) were second and third. Humberside police recorded the biggest rise over the three years with incidents up by over 1000%.

VW points out that the cost of tool theft to businesses is more than just replacement equipment, as drivers are often unable to work while vans are restocked and locks repaired. Downtime costs companies an estimated £550 a day per van.

According to analysis of the police figures, September is when van drivers should be most vigilant, with over 2000 cases recorded across the UK in September alone last year.

Trevor Hodgson-Phillips, Head of Service and Parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, comments: “These findings are startling as it shows the problem is only getting worse right across the UK. Tool theft costs owner drivers and businesses millions of pounds each year in insurance claims and downtime.

“Any amount of time where a van can’t be used is additional cost on top of the replacement tools. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is committed to supporting our customers wherever possible, and that includes preventing them from becoming victims of tool theft.”

According to the insurance broker Simply Business, a further concern is that tool thieves are becoming more sophisticated. Some are now using electronic key fobs to break into vehicles without leaving any signs of damage, making culprits harder to trace and making it more difficult for tradespeople to protect their vans. Criminals will sometimes work in pairs, with one intercepting the signal from the owner’s key fob while the other uses the bought fob to replicate the signal and open the van door.

Fiona McSwein, Chief Customer Officer at Simply Business, says: “In 2016 a ‘peel and steal’ craze affected thousands across the country. Now we are witnessing new and more advanced ways for thieves to target high-value items, which is a worrying trend.”

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