How to protect your work van from tool theft
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Don’t let tool thieves threaten your livelihood. Wasim Bux, Product Manager at insurance provider iGO4, shares his insider expertise on how tradespeople can help to prevent break ins and tool theft.

Britain is in the grip of a tool theft epidemic, with police estimates suggesting that a van is broken into every 23 minutes (BBC). Opportunistic criminals will strike any vehicle they think is going to be an easy target, which is why extra security measures and deterrents are so essential.

As a tradesperson, your tools are an essential part of your everyday business operations, so it’s vital that you do everything in your power to protect them. Your van also represents a big investment, so you’ll want to protect this from damage caused during a break in too. In this article, I’ll share what you need to do to keep your van and its contents safe from thieves.

Improve your locks

The locks that come as standard on your van doors often aren’t strong enough to stop cunning thieves from finding a way in, and many are easy to pick. So, you’ll need to add some extra security measures to your doors: heavy-duty deadlocks and steel-clad locks will add another layer of protection, and thieves will struggle to pick them or break through them with bolt cutters.

Remember, your locks will only offer effective protection if you’re vigilant about using them. So, you should be sure to lock up every time you leave your van unattended, even if it’s just for a few moments. Slam-locks — which will ensure that your doors lock every time they close — are also a good idea if you frequently forget to lock up, or need to make lots of quick stops throughout the day.

Prevent ‘peel and steal’ thefts

So-called ‘peel and steal’ theft is a form of van theft that’s currently on the rise in the UK. This extremely destructive method sees the thief use brute force to pull the top of the sliding door open and peel it back, allowing them to help themselves to the contents of the van. Not only does this cost you your tools and equipment, but it will also cause serious damage to your vehicle. What’s more, because this theft doesn’t force the locks, it might not set off the factory alarm on your van.

You can protect yourself from this sort of theft by adding an extra lock to the top of the door, which can make it harder to force open. You could also try reinforcing the top of the doors with box steel, which will stop thieves from peeling them back.

Add alarms and immobilisers

While most modern vans come with alarms as standard, cunning thieves have found ways to bypass or disable these. So, it’s smart to add extra alarms to your van: look for systems that are activated by movement, and that can activate an immobiliser to stop thieves from stealing your vehicle. A good immobiliser will use steering, handbrake, and transmission locks to provide an extra-failsafe to stop thieves if they do manage to break in.

You want your alarms to act as a deterrent to would-be thieves, so let them know that your van is fully alarmed by displaying stickers on your windows and doors.

Secure the catalytic converter

Thieves aren’t just after your tools: they might also target your van for parts they can sell on too. Catalytic converters (CAT) are attached to the exhaust on the underside of your vehicle, and they use precious metals like rhodium, palladium, and platinum to filter out toxic fuel emissions. But these expensive metals are a tempting prospect for thieves, who can remove the converter with a simple pair of bolt cutters.

The best way to protect against this sort of theft is with a catalytic converter guard. These use high-strength steel collars and anti-tamper bolts to keep your converter securely in place. You could also consider using a catalytic converter marking kit: this marks your CAT with a unique fingerprint, which makes it difficult to sell on if stolen.

Store tools in a secure location when possible

Even with the best security measures, there is simply no way to guarantee that tools stored in a van will always be safe from theft. While taking your tools in and out of your van each day might seem like hard work, it’s ultimately better than losing hundreds or even thousands of pounds worth of expensive equipment and lost earnings. So, whenever possible, store your tools in a locked tool storage box inside a secure, alarmed garage or building.

Be careful where you park

If possible, always store your van in a locked, alarmed garage overnight. If you park your van outside your home overnight, then remember to remove any tools and store them somewhere safe. If you can afford to, it’s also a good idea to install security cameras outside your home to act as a deterrent.

While you might be more concerned with the security of your van overnight, never forget that your vehicle can be vulnerable to theft during your working day, too. When you’re out on a job and need to leave your van unattended, you should make sure that you park it in a way that minimises the risk of a break in. For example, if you won’t need to access the van frequently, it’s a good idea to park it close to a wall or another vehicle, so that the cargo doors are harder to access.

If you need to park your van out of your line of vision during the day, try to make sure it’s parked in a busy, well-lit area, so thieves won’t get an opportunity to break in. And don’t forget to lock every door and window while you’re on the job, even if you’ll only be gone for a short while.

An epidemic of tool thefts is threatening the livelihoods of tradespeople all over the country. But, by improving the security of your van and taking a few common-sense precautions, you can deter thieves and lessen the risk of a break in.

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