Tool thefts from vans in car parks drop dramatically after crackdown

Suffolk has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of tool thefts from vans Picture: JEAN-PHILIPPE

Suffolk has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of tool thefts from vans Picture: JEAN-PHILIPPE WALLET/GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tool thefts from vans have dropped dramatically in Suffolk thanks in part to a successful police operation.

The drop comes following Operation Winston, aiming to tackle organised tool thefts from vans across the county – primarily in hotel and supermarket car parks.

The operation came into force following a dramatic rise in recent years, with 319 instances reported to the constabulary in 2018, while 2017 it was 276.

Neighbouring Norfolk fared much better however, with figures only standing at 72 and 149 for the same years.

According to temporary detective chief inspector Nicky Wallace, Suffolk followed a nationwide trend – but fared worse than others due to its proximity to London, Essex and Cambridgeshire – where thieves would travel from before swiftly leaving the county.

As part of their response, a direct 999 response line was set up in the force’s control room, while officers regularly patrolled hotel car parks.

T/DCI Wallace said: “There was an awful lot of work put in to address the problem. We had some real significant results and handed out some pretty significant fines as well.

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“It tends to flare up, and 2018 was a pretty bad year. During 2018, this really was a national problem and we partnered with other police forces – we also knew of tools being loaded up and sent abroad so we partnered with the ports as well.

“They are very, very good at what they do. When we catch them on CCTV, they are gloved, they are masked and they are in and out of some vans in less than a minute.

“At one point they were targeting vans in supermarkets – there were tradesmen popping into shops to get some lunch and coming back to find their vans had been opened and their tools removed. They gave us very little opportunity to intercept.”

The operation proved a success, with the number of thefts dropping to 146 in 2019, while as of late June, 49 cases have been reported this year.

T/DCI Wallace added: “It does affect people’s lives. It is more than just theft from a motor vehicle – it is a significant crime which genuinely affects people’s livelihoods.”

Van owners are advised to ensure their vans are parked in a well lit, secured place overnight and to bring their tools indoors. They are also advised to register their tools with police, note their serial numbers and to mark them with their initials.