Have budget cuts and a tightening of resources forced our police forces to prioritise certain crimes over others? Editor of PHAM News, Chris Jones investigates

Police representatives might robustly deny such accusations, but there is a growing public perception that burglary and non-violent crimes are considered minor offenses which might result in some bothersome paperwork but rarely lead to a successful conviction.

Many people would argue that it will only encourage the criminally minded to go about their business if they believe that the risk of getting caught has significantly diminished.

For trade professionals, it’s the increasing number of tool thefts from vans that is the biggest cause of concern.

The fight against this type of crime needs to be engaged on several levels.

Chris Jones PHAM News Chris Jones Editor of PHAM News

Increase in van crime

Recent reports have pointed to a rapid rise in such incidents over the last few years. It is estimated that a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK, resulting in 22,749 thefts in 2017 alone.

Not surprisingly, the number of tool theft claims has also risen, as has the value of those claims, now averaging nearly £1,700.

Unfortunately, though, the rise in reported thefts has not resulted in an increase in the number of convictions, with the great majority of police investigations failing to identify a suspect.

Knock on effects

For those who rely on their tools to perform their work and earn their livelihood, the costs of a break-in are far higher than the value of their equipment and the price of repairing the van.

Many will be obliged to take time off work, resulting in customers being let down and potential damage to reputation.

Any burglary is likely to result in a certain amount of stress and anxiety, but this is likely to be multiplied if the victim is not able to get back to work for several days.

#noVANber

In an effort to raise awareness about the issue, a number of tradespeople have looked to organise protests, most notably an anti-tool theft rally of more than 150 vans in Plymouth which helped to attract some media interest earlier this year.

More recently, Loughborough-based heating engineer Peter Booth, with the backing of his MP Nicky Morgan, launched a petition on the Government’s petitions website calling for harsher penalties and legislation to make it harder to resell stolen tools.

The petition has had considerable exposure on social media under the hashtag #noVANber, and at the time of writing has received nearly 37,000 signatures.

Multi-level approach

Bigger penalties and making the theft of tools a less profitable activity would both be positive steps in turning the tide, but ultimately it has to be recognised that the fight against this type of crime needs to be engaged on several levels.

There are more van owners can do to discourage casual theft, including taking tools in at night, investing in secure boxes and using permanent markers.

More also needs to be done to crack down on the online purchase of low cost electronic key fobs which make it all too easy for thieves to gain access.

However, all of the above are likely to have only limited impact until the police are given sufficient resources that will allow them to devote more time to tracking down suspects.

In the meantime, it looks like the wheels of justice will continue to turn all too slowly for the nation’s van owners.

Chris Jones is editor of PHAM News