Van crime falls in 2019 but still costs victims thousands

The number of vans stolen fell by 5% and thefts from vans dropped by 10% in 2019 – but the average cost of goods stolen is increasing, according to new figures.

Police data, presented in Logistics UK’s Van Security Report, showed a 5% fall in thefts, despite the number of new vans registered in 2019 increasing by 2.4% and the population of licensed vans increasing by 2.6%. Initial figures for 2020 show that the number has continued to fall in 2020, although this could be down to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Van thefts increased annually from 2014, peaking in 2018 before dropping in 2019. The number of content thefts also fell by 10% over the same period. However, the reason for this remains unclear, according to Logistics UK. While some van operators suggested the reduction was due to increased additional security measures, such as locks, or driver training and awareness, it could also be a consequence of issues with reporting.

In 2019, national police data from 27 forces compiled by Logistics UK showed 8,072 vans thefts and 28,717 contents thefts were reported to the police. The average cost of contents stolen per van in 2019 was £549, rising to £575 in the first half of 2020.

This amount was consistent with the responses given as part of the Logistics UK Van Security Survey, which was conducted from August to September 2020 and where Logistics UK invited van users and operators to take part. On average, organisations said they had items stolen from their vans four times in the previous 12 months, costing each business around £4,250 in total. Two-thirds of the van content thefts reported included tools, and more than half involved equipment.

Logistics UK also looked at how van content thefts can affect business operations. Nearly 70% of survey respondents incurred financial costs and 58% productivity loss. However, impacts were shown to have a significant effect on drivers as well: more than 60% of respondents said content theft negatively impacted the driver, and in almost one in eight content thefts the driver or an employee was threatened.

The Survey found that vans are most likely to be stolen from a driver’s home – 47.8% of van thefts were from a driver’s home driveway – or on-street parking (43.5%). Kerbside thefts were mentioned by 34.8%. Respondents were asked to choose as many options as were applicable, hence why the figures come out at more than 100%.

In addition, 30.4% of thefts were from depots. These figures suggest thieves target locations where they know vans are often kept overnight.

Meanwhile a van was more likely to be broken into for its contents when parked on a street: 38.2% of thefts occurred when   the vehicle was parked at the driver’s on-street parking and 32.4% when kerbside. This suggests content thefts are the result of a thief spotting an opportunity.

This conclusion was further enforced by the answers respondents gave to whether there was a pattern to the break-ins for a van’s contents: two-thirds said “no”, implying these thefts were random. While those who said there was a pattern, it often seems to be separate thieves repeating the same opportunistic crime.

Denise Beedell, policy manager for vans and urban at Logistics UK, said: “In addition to initial cost implications, logistics businesses also face increased operational costs and potential staff and customer retention difficulties as a result of these thefts,” she said. “Currently, it is up to individual police forces to decide how to record commercial van crime, resulting in an incomplete picture of the extent of this type of crime. To better highlight the impact of these crimes on van operating businesses, to policy makers at all level of Government, Logistics UK is calling for a UK-wide standard reporting mechanism among all police force areas.

“Logistics UK is also calling for the Home Office to allocate a national crime reporting code to allow better understanding of the scale and reach of this crime and to support better allocation of police resources. It must be recognised that this type of crime is not victimless and its impacts are felt keenly by operators and their employees. We will also be looking to work with manufacturers of vehicle and security equipment to explore what features can be developed for commercial vans to minimise van related crimes.”

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now the editor of our three commercial vehicle titles: The Van Expert, The Truck Expert and Commercial Vehicle Engineer.

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