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Near 50% increase in UK van theft since 2014

UK van theft has soared by nearly 50% over the last five years with more than 30,000 vehicles stolen since 2015, according to research conducted by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

In the last year alone, almost 10,000 van thefts have been recorded across the UK, according to official police statistics. 2018/19 figures obtained by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles represent a year-on-year rise of 4% and a 45% increase since 2015/16, while the Home Office’s own statistics indicate a 48.7% rise in the last five years.

Of the 9,371 van thefts reported in the past 12 months, the Metropolitan Police recorded more than half of the total with 4,777 commercial vehicles stolen in the area – a rise of 15% – according to a freedom of information request by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to all 47 UK police forces, with 42 responding.

Loss of a vehicle and/or tools is an unforeseen expense, pushes insurance premiums up and can lead to an inability to complete projects, which is devastating to small business owners.

The biggest yearly increase in thefts was reported in Leicestershire with 10 times more vans stolen in 2018/19 than records for the year before. Van thefts in North Wales doubled while West Yorkshire police records showed a 67% rise. West Yorkshire was the second highest overall (931 thefts), followed by the West Midlands (409), Essex (387) and Leicestershire (377).

The Home Office confirms van crime is on the rise, with more than 1 in 3 tradespeople in 2019 hit by van thieves and an average individual cost of £3,000. Since November 2018, a campaign called noVANber has petitioned the Government to examine ways of preventing vehicle theft.

The Home Office said: “The Government understands the distress and disruption that this type of crime causes and the effect it has on victims, including the impact on people who rely on the tools of their trade to earn a living.”

A noVANber petition calls for a review of current vehicle theft prevention methods, tighter regulation when it comes to the selling of second-hand tools and greater minimum fines for those convicted of tool theft. As thieves become more sophisticated and the average value of tools stolen increases, tradespeople are sharing their ideas on how to be aware of preventative measures and deterrents which work. The expense of preventative measures don’t have to be prohibitive but cost can’t always be calculated in pounds and pence.

In response to the noVANber petition, which gained more than 40,000 signatures, the Government responded: “The Theft Act 1968 provides a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment for this type of offence. In addition, the Act provides sufficient powers to tackle the threat of people going equipped to steal, with maximum penalties of three years’ imprisonment available.”

Parking next to pillars, in view of CCTV and below streetlamps where possible are top of the list, followed by clearly marking tools with a UV pen, permanent marker or chemical etching, along with installing van guards and storage volts.

Unfortunate van owners have also shared images via the #noVANber hashtag to show how their vehicles have been broken in, in an attempt to help other owners protect their tools.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is advising van owners and fleet managers to ensure their vehicles are fitted with the latest anti-theft devices, as well as remembering to remove expensive tools from vehicles at night.

Volkswagen offers a Business Pack across its range of vans that can be specified with interior monitoring, a back-up horn and tow-away protection. There are also a range of lockable racking solutions and tool storage boxes, as well as a couple of Meta Trak subscription offers that allow owners to track their vans in real-time and receive instant smartphone alerts with full UK and European coverage.

David Hanna, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles head of service and parts operations, said: “Vans are the lifeblood of so many businesses up and down the country and it’s not only the emotional stress of replacing the vehicle but also the days and weeks of letting customers down and the cost of replacing tools, often worth thousands of pounds, before you can get back to ‘business as usual’.

“We strongly advise not to leave tools in the vehicle overnight and we’re also supporting our customers with offers on the latest anti-theft devices to help give them piece of mind.”

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Written by Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.

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