Tradesmen warned as tool thieves use new 'peel and steal' technique to break into vans

Thieves are using a new ‘peel and steal’ technique to break into vans. The new method of tool theft doesn’t require any lock picking, just brute force.

CCTV catches thieves in the act

Footage from across the UK shows thieves using their knees to brace against vans with sliding side doors then pulling them open from the top using only their hands.

It’s estimated that five such crimes are taking place each day, with Yorkshire, Wales, and the West Midlands the worst affected areas.

Campaigners raise awareness

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

“People have described it as like peeling a banana or opening a tin of sardines,” said Hargrave “It means they can go round without any tools to break into vans so if they get caught they can’t get done for being equipped.”

He went on to point out that the new technique had highlighted a serious weakness in these types of vans, and that particularly tradesmen who use Ford Transit vans with sliding side doors should be careful.

While the first instances of the ‘peel and steal’ or ‘peel and seek’ manoeuvre were seen a few months ago, this type of crime has spiked since Christmas. In Hargrave’s words: “It is absolutely crazy how quickly it has taken off.”

Van manufacturers respond to the threat

However, it’s not just Ford Transits that are at risk. Earlier this year, thieves broke into a Mercedes Vito and stole its contents in less than a minute - all while it was parked in its owner’s driveway.

“As criminal activity evolves, vehicles can become vulnerable in ways we could not have anticipated.” said a spokesperson for Mercedes, adding that they work with the police and are continually reviewing their products to make sure their levels of protection for their vans are up-to-date.

A spokesperson for Ford had similar things to say, commenting: “We are constantly learning about the latest techniques used to gain access, and whether there are additional enhancements we can make to Ford vehicles.”

How to protect yourself against peel and steal theft

However, these assurances may prove cold comfort for tradesmen whose vans are at risk. If you’re worried about peel and steal thieves targeting your van, here are some tips to help keep your livelihood safe:

  • Park with your sliding side door - and rear doors, if possible - against a wall or sturdy fence so thieves can’t get at them
  • Try not to keep tools and other valuables in your van overnight, where possible
  • Consider reinforcing your doors, or adding extra locks

Are you worried about ‘peel and steal’? Let us know in the comments

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