Around this time each year van owners are reminded by police to protect their vehicles, especially if they are carrying expensive goods. In the build up to Christmas there are often reports of parcel vans being targeted by thieves looking to steal the packages inside, however it’s not just those in the delivery sector that need to be wary of thieves. In fact, there have been a number of van thefts in Derbyshire over the recent weeks, where many have been targeted for the tools inside their vehicles.
Discussing the issue, Community Safety Inspector Russell Dakin said: “We are encouraging owners to take the necessary safety precautions from simply locking vehicles and removing valuables, to considering fitting and using a suitable alarm. Tools and other valuables can be expensive, and could also mean you are unable to work while waiting for them to be replaced. While it might seem inconvenient, removing these items and securing your vehicle might be worthwhile in the longer term.”
Even though van thefts have always been relatively common, the fact that they are already on the increase in certain areas in the UK means that owners need to start thinking more seriously about the safety of their vans. As Mr Dakin suggested, this can be achieved by ensuring your van is fitted with an alarm or even an immobiliser, and it is always recommended not to leave any contents in your van overnight.
Van owners need to also be aware that it’s not just the contents of their vehicle that can be stolen, but also actual parts of their vehicles. The British Transport Police recently reported that over one thousand catalytic converters have been stolen over recent months, which can cost upwards of one thousand pounds to replace. It is believed that the increase in catalytic converter thefts has been caused by a crackdown on other forms of metal crimes such as cable thefts.
The BBC reported that between 2010 and the first half of this year twenty five thousand catalytic converters have been stolen from vehicles around the UK. Some areas have been affected more than others, such as Bedfordshire and South Yorkshire where there has been a tenfold increase, while Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Leicestershire have experienced a threefold increase.
Detective Superintendent Alison Evans from the British Transport Police said: “We believe organised crime groups are responsible for the majority of catalytic converter thefts that we see, as they target depots and multi-vehicle locations using specialist tools – very few are opportunistic thefts. We are building a highly accurate intelligence picture to find those responsible and bring them to justice, while highlighting the issue to the industry and car owners.
Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), added: “The BMRA hopes that the rigorous enforcement of the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act from December will actively discourage thieves from this harmful activity. Police will, for the first time, be able to act against anyone handling catalytic converters without a licence.”
Even though your van insurance policy will be able to cover the cost of a stolen catalytic converter, the fact that they cost so much to replace means that it could affect your premiums as well as keep you off the road for a considerable period of time. As the BMRA are bringing in stricter rules thefts of catalytic converters should hopefully decrease in the near future, however van owners are advised to remain vigilant.
For individuals that own a van this generally means making sure it is always parked in a safe place; however those that run fleets of commercial vehicles have a harder job. Generally, companies attempt to protect their commercial vehicle fleets by installing security measures on their premises, however as the British Transport Police have shown these are not always reliable. It may therefore be advisable for companies that will be depending heavily on their commercial vehicle fleets in the run up for Christmas to increase their security measures and deter thieves.