Recent years have seen a major rise in theft from vans owned by installers and other tradespeople. For those that have been hit, the result is major disruption and cost. Benjamin Dyer of Powered Now looks at 5 tips for reducing the chances and impact of this potentially painful problem.
My road leads to some housing further up the hill, but it doesn’t have any through traffic. In the past few years, two trade vans parked in the road have been broken into and had their tools stolen.
In fact, one estimate says that one van gets broken into every 23 minutes. The experience in my area suggests that this might be true.
If it happens to you, you may have tools, materials or valuables stolen. The van may be stolen or expensive parts be stripped from it. And impact goes way beyond the actual loss. The time taken to sort out the damage and fill in insurance claims comes straight off billable hours. Then there’s loss of earnings coming from potentially letting clients down and waiting for new tools and van repairs. It can all be a nightmare.
This is why van security is something well worth considering.
Tip 1: Know their tricks
Thieves have been known to both steal and buy skeleton keys and obviously they can get in easily if doors are unlocked. They can also cut round locks, smash windows, and use the method of getting into vans known as "peel and steal". This involves them pressing their body on the van and then lifting open the top of the side door.
Thieves are opportunists and don’t want to get caught. I have had my property broken into twice in my life. Since I started taking more precautions it has never happened again. So, the rest of this article is about making thieves think there are limited pickings in your van. And even if not, the pickings will be hard to get at and make them feel uncomfortable even trying it on.
Read more: Tool theft breaks businesses
Tip 2: Put them off in the first place
When crooks can see things like tools that are valuable and easy to move on, they are much more likely to pounce. The simple ways to prevent this happening are:
• Make sure no valuables or tools are in view. When they are, it’s an open invitation. Some thieves will even use this as an internal justification to tell themselves that they are doing no wrong as you have asked for it
• Put a sticker on the van “No tools are left in this vehicle overnight” and practise what you preach
• Blank off or glaze windows as well as putting a screen between the driver and the back so that thieves can’t tell what their reward might be. That should make them take the risk somewhere else
Tip 3: Do the simple and cheap things as a priority
Just because something is both cheap and simple shouldn’t be a reason for not doing it. Sometimes simple is best. Some of the cheapest ways that prevents or cuts back the chances of your van being stolen or broken into are the following:
- Use a steering lock, it not only makes it more awkward to steal the van, it also communicates that you may have other hidden protections in place
- Fit wheel locks for the same reasons
- Consider a brake lock as an alternative or complement to the steering lock
- Use plastic window tint as the cheapest way to stop prying eyes seeing in
- Fit steel window grills or put in blanks instead of windows to provide both a physical and visual deterrent
All thieves hate honest work which is exactly why they are thieves. So, make sure that using these simple solutions it will mean harder work for the thieves.
Tip 4: Go the second mile
On top of the ideas we have already considered there are a lot more ways that you can defend your van. Using these will greatly reduce the chances of a problem, but it does take discipline. Here are my further suggestions:
• Tell your staff about van security and keep reminding them. They can easily be the weakest link
• Use Ultraviolet (“UV”) pens to mark your property so that if the police recover anything stolen it will be returned as well as being great evidence to nail the thieves
• Even when you are loading, unloading or paying for petrol, keep the van locked and the windows closed. This can be when it is most vulnerable
• Put slamlocks on your vans that automatically lock doors when they are slammed shut. Making it easy to lock the van means it will be much more likely that it will be locked when a thief tries to strike
• Try to park where the thieves will feel most nervous. That’s where there are people around, bright street lighting and if possible CCTV too
• When parking on your own property, fit movement detecting lights and cameras. This should put off anybody approaching your property with bad intentions before they even get started
• Fit deadlocks, an alarm, an immobiliser and/or a tracker. The latter has other benefits if you manage staff
• Have a fixed and lockable strong steel chest inside the van and use it to store expensive tools
• Put protection plates around your locks so that cutting their way into the van becomes a real chore for thieves
Tip 5: Make insurance your final line of defence
According to figures from the insurance industry the average claim relating to theft from light commercial vehicles is nearly two thousand pounds. Make sure you have arranged comprehensive insurance and that you keep the invoices for your most expensive items.
Don’t sit back
The solution to the rise in van crime lies partly in the hands of the industry. If we can make things much harder for the thieves, the less they will be bothered to have a go. Hopefully, some of the ideas here can be part of the fight back against this huge irritation.