Van drivers warned about 'epidemic' of tool thefts

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Growing numbers of van drivers are suffering theft from their vehicles, according to police figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live.

In 2014-2015 there were just over 13,000 reported tool thefts from vans, but this increased to over 21,500 in the year to March 2017 -- a rise of nearly two-thirds in two years.

The figures suggest that tools are stolen from vans every 23 minutes in the UK.

One of the reasons for the increase is thought to be the easy availability of equipment like skeleton keys -- which can be bought online for £20.

Dr Steffan George from the Master Locksmiths Association told the BBC: "These are legitimate locksmiths tools, but they shouldn't be available to everyone.

"We would welcome a restriction of their sale."

Other thieves have adopted a method that has become known as 'peel and steal' or 'peel and seek', in which criminals use their body weight to press on the van's sliding side door or back door and then pull down the top of the door using only their hands.

Campaigners Spencer Hargrave and Paul Butterfield, who run a building firm, are campaigning to raise awareness about the growing problem.

They estimate that five such crimes are taking place each day, with thousands of pounds worth of tools stolen.

Hargrave said that the new technique had highlighted a serious weakness in certain vans, and that tradespeople need to remain vigilant.

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