‘Stop the van thefts’
A businessman in Scarborough is backing a campaign urging the Government to introduce tougher penalties on van tool thieves, whose actions are putting thousands of businesses at risk. John Wood is a plumbing and heating engineer from Cayton.
He experienced first-hand the devastating impact of van tool theft when his own van was broken into and emptied of all its contents.
He said: “I came home, parked the van up, went in and got changed and in the space of half an hour my van had been emptied, and this wasn’t at night, it was broad daylight.
“They stole around £7,000 worth of tools and insurance only paid us about a grand. At the time I had some money I’d saved up to go on holiday with my family so I used that, but not everyone can afford to replace their tools and if it happened again I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Since the incident, which he took over a year to recover from, John has joined thousands of tradesmen across the country in a fight to raise awareness of the crime and call for authorities to do more to stop it.
A petition that was launched only last month has already reached 36,000 signatures. It is also backed by TV presenter Nick Knowles who branded the problem a “plague”.
John added: “In Cayton
we’ve had three vans ripped open in just one night, it’s a massive issue and the impact on people’s livelihood is huge.
“At the moment this kind of crime is classed as ‘theft from motor vehicle’ but it’s much more than that, it ruins your life.
“It’s putting people out of business because it’s not just the tools that get stolen but also the damage that they do to your van.”
According to John, officers need to do more to tackle the crime, which he says happens regardless of whether or not tools are taken out of vehicles.
“Police don’t tend to attend this kind of report and all you’re left with is a crime reference number.
“For us it is a constant worry, every day I think ‘is it going to happen again?’ and ‘what happens if it does?’
“It’s not yobs that do this, it’s organised crime and all the tools that get stolen end up online on sites like eBay and Amazon.
“I know the police have a tough job but they need to do more to investigate.”
Earlier this year five men from West Yorkshire were jailed for a combined 10 years for targeting a total of 14 vans in Scarborough, Whitby and Bridlington.
Despite this, North Yorkshire Police says the number of incidents in the Scarborough district is declining.
Figures show a total of 13 reports in the 2016/2017 financial year, which dropped to nine in 2017/2018.
A spokesman from the force said: “While the number of thefts of tools and machinery from work vans in the Scarborough area is relatively low and appears to be on a downward trend, we fully understand the detrimental impact it can have on the livelihoods of tradespeople.
“As with any other business, home or vehicle owner, it is absolutely essential that every measure is taken to keep opportunistic thieves at bay.
“This includes parking in well-lit and CCTV covered areas, ensuring appropriate locks and alarms are fitted to vehicles and keeping valuable items out of sight.
“If the van is parked at home or left outside business premises, always make sure the tools and machinery are taken out every night and left in a secure place.
“Importantly, if the worst should happen, make sure that tools and machinery are property marked with a system such as dot peen. That way the police will have a better chance to recover the stolen items and return them to their rightful owners.
“We also urge people to report suspicious behaviour on 101 so the police can investigate.
“Always dial 999 if a crime is in progress and an emergency response is required.”