Van drivers ‘angry’ and told to remove tools at night after spate of break-ins

In one case, crooks reportedly used angle grinders to cut open a van like a tin opener to bypass e

In one case, crooks reportedly used angle grinders to cut open a van like a tin opener to bypass enhanced security features. Stock picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Tradesmen in Suffolk and Essex have been warned to start taking their tools off their vans at night following a spate of break-ins.

Dozens of companies have been hit in recent weeks, with reports of works vehicles being targeted in Sudbury, Hadleigh, Stoke by Nayland, and Boxford.

The situation has become so rife that concerned business owners have started staying up at night in the hope of catching the culprits.

In some cases the criminals have been using key devices to open up vans via the electronic central locking system. In one case, crooks reportedly used angle grinders to cut open a van “like a tin opener” to bypass enhanced security features.

Luke Whitwell, of plumbing and heating engineers Whitwell Services, said he has suffered five break-ins to vans in the past year, costing his company around £10,000 and leaving him shocked at the scale of the break-ins.

He said: “It’s getting really bad out there for a lot of small businesses. People rely on their tools to make a living so there’s a lot of anger.

“I’ve heard from friends in Sudbury who have been staying up overnight and waiting for the culprits to strike. The situation really has got that bad. Everyone I’ve been speaking to recently has either had a works vehicle broken into, or they know of someone who has been affected.”

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Mr Whitwell, who lives near Hadleigh, said some tradesmen fear that their livelihoods are being put at risk.

He added: “Insurance might cover the damage to a van but the tools onboard are not always covered. You can be talking about thousands of pounds of equipment and not everyone is able to bounce back from that.

“We work hard all day everyday to be a successful company so it’s completely demoralising when this happens time and again.

“My workers have had to start taking their tools off the vans at night. There’s no other option.”

Police were called to almost 250 vehicle-theft related instances in west Ipswich, such as Norwich Road and Bramford Road, from October to December 2017

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “Van owners are advised to register their tools for free at by taking note of the serial numbers and models, and to use ultraviolet pen to (invisibly) mark their property, which increases the chances of having them returned to you in the event of being lost or stolen.”

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